Gotcha4Life: Mates unite to raise awareness for men's mental health

Mates unite to raise awareness for men’s mental health

Radio personality Gus Worland and NRL star Benji Marshall are teaming up to raise awareness about the need to help save the lives of Aussie men.

A popular member of Triple M’s Grill Team in Sydney, Gus says he has dedicated his life to the Gotcha4Life foundation and its focus on reducing the rate of male suicide in Australia.

“Gotcha4life will be my legacy. That’s my passion,” he says with absolute seriousness, a break from his usual easygoing and playful manner.

On a quest to improve men’s mental health

Gus’s quest to understand more about why men take their lives began when his good friend committed suicide in 2006. He found the statistics were staggering, and even more so was the fact no one seemed to be talking about it.

An alarming 2866 Australians took their own lives in 2016, and 2151 of those deaths were men.

Along with friends Gareth Pike and Mike Charter, who formed Gotcha4Life with Gus, they’re encouraging men to talk to one another and to support each other.

“My aim is that in 20 years’ time you’ll hear people say, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve got my Gotcha friend’, and that becomes the Aussie way of talking,” Gus says.

“The more people we have with a Gotcha4Life friend I believe we will bring down the number of suicides, because we’ll be sharing our issues rather than trying to deal with it ourselves.”

Wests Tigers half back Benji Marshall knows too well the pain of seeing a good mate overwhelmed by his problems and feelings of loneliness.

“One of my best mates tried to commit suicide when we’d just moved to Australia,” Benji says. “We lived in an apartment and I came home from training one day and found him.”

It was a confronting scene for the then 19-year-old and initially he didn’t know how to handle it.

“At the time I was very angry . . . I’d never thought about committing suicide, I didn’t know what those feelings were like. Then when I actually thought about it I got angry at myself for not being there for him to talk to me, or him not feeling comfortable enough to talk to me.”

Thankfully, Benji’s friend made a full recovery and he now talks to people about his experience to encourage them to ask for help if they’re struggling.

Benji grew up in New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty and says the area has the highest rate of male teen suicide in the country.

“It was frowned upon to talk about your feelings or show weakness. I think as men we’re too proud or embarrassed to say we’re not doing so well or we need help or need to express our feelings.”

Having spent a large chunk of his life in a male-dominated football environment, Benji understands the pressures some men experience so he always tries to be available to anyone who might need to talk.

“I’m a guy they come to if they’ve got problems, because I’m the oldest in the team. I think it’s nice they’ve got someone they can trust and share their feelings with,” Benji says.

“Obviously after going through it with a friend you don’t want to see that happen to anyone else. Someone feeling so isolated that they don’t have anyone to talk to. A lot of people are going through the same thing and it’s OK to ask for help.”

Gus says being able to talk through problems with a true friend is an enormous step towards getting on top of it.

“It shares the problem. Suicide is a death of loneliness. You think you’re the only one who has the problems you have. As soon as you share, as soon as you talk, you realise ‘I’m not the only one here’.”

Supporting life-saving initiatives

A little over a year since Gotcha4Life launched, the funds raised have powered several potentially life-saving initiatives. They’ve helped drive the Tomorrow Man schools program, which helps boys understand the challenges they face and how to support each other as well as the training of 100 male Lifeline counsellors.

The Gotcha4Life foundation has also formed a partnership with Macquarie University to help support their Project 1.4 which aims to reach out to the 1.4 million teenage boys in Australia to encourage connectedness and communication with each other.

Gotcha4Life will host its annual Rock Ball in Sydney featuring an all star rock band and a battle of the youth bands competition on Saturday, June 16, coinciding with Men’s Health Week.

For tickets visit stickytickets.com.au/67290/rock_ball.aspx


In search of… Men’s Mental Health ft. Gus Worland

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