Ex Carlton player Jake Edwards spoke at length about his own mental health issues as part of the first Outside The Locker Room sessions.
Ex Carlton player Jake Edwards spoke at length about his own mental health issues as part of the first Outside The Locker Room sessions.

AROUND one hundred people attended the first Outside the Locker Room session which was held at the Jeparit Recreation Reserve on Monday April 24. Jeparit Rainbow Football Netball Club President Jason Hutson welcomed those attending and introduced Jake Edwards and Warren Davies from OTLR.

Warren who will be working with the club over the next twelve months to implement the program then spoke.

He grew up in Melbourne before his family moved onto a dairy farm in the Goulburn Valley. Warren said that he had just found out that he had a link with Jeparit Rainbow, having played football and coached with former Jeparit Rainbow player Mark Schumann. He then spoke of the importance of football netball clubs to the local community. Warren had struggled with mental health issues during his football career and had needed a program like OTLR.

Jake Edwards then spoke for over an hour in a compelling address as he told the audience the story of his life. Jake is an ex Carlton player with a long family history in the VFL/ AFL. His grandfather Arthur played in the 1954 Footscray premiership team while his father Alan, a strong centre half forward, played for 113 games for Richmond, Collingwood and Footscray. Jake is also related to former Brisbane/ Collingwood midfielder Shane O’Bree who played 295 AFL games.

So football was always a big part of Jake’s early life. Jake spoke of the strong work ethic instilled in him by his father. When Jake was drafted by Carlton in 2006 he put the expectation on himself that he had to play at least 100 AFL games. Jake worked hard to establish himself at the club playing his first senior game in 2008, kicking 1.4 against Richmond; this was also Chris Judd’s first game for Carlton.

As a twenty year old Jake was already struggling with mental health issues struggling to get out of bed in the morning and suffering anxiety attacks. His biggest fear was that his team mates would think he was not mentally strong enough. He didn’t seek help until the pressure got too much but the support at Carlton was a lot less than the AFL now provides for players. In the end Jake quit Carlton because of his ignorant self; he hid who he really was.

When he wasn’t drafted by the Western Bulldogs as they had promised he saw no value in his life as a footballer and he spiralled out of control, firstly through alcohol and then drugs. This had a toxic effect on his relationships and his family. There was a four year period in his life that he calls the cyclone. He would mess up things and leave. Things reached a breaking point when he decided to end it all but a timely phone call from his parents saved him.

He then had a period of rehab which taught him about mental health and addiction. Jake also spoke on his coping mechanisms as he will always have mental health issues. For him music, beach and family keep him happy but everyone is different, we all need to find ways to cope with life. He also spoke on how to help your friends and team mates if they are having problems. We all need to look after each other. Jake then decided to use his life experiences to help others by setting up OTLR.

This program has been put in place by many local sporting clubs around Victoria and interstate. The trip to Jeparit is the longest Jake has made. He praised the Jeparit Rainbow committee for being proactive and taking on the program. The next three sessions will cover leadership and club culture, alcohol and mental health and nutrition and food. Each session will feature a guest presenter. These sessions will be on May 11, June 8 and July 13. OTLR will provide support for club members and the wider community. It provides hands on approach. People can connect with it through Facebook, a phone call, email or a free app which will be up soon.
Warren will always be available to help anyone. Throughout Jakes speech his audience paid complete attention, anyone could hear a pin drop as they listened to his powerful and emotional story. Everyone who attended would have left with a much clearer understanding of mental health issues.
If you or someone you know is affected by any mental health issues, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyondblue at 1300 224 636.