• NT man Jackson Clark's new campaign is aimed at tackling mental health for fellow friends on the footy field. (NITV News)Source: NITV News
In April, Jackson Clark set out on a mission. He left his home in the Northern Territory to become the first person to play one game of football in every Australian state and territory. But his mission had a special meaning.
Laura Morelli

26 May 2017 - 2:22 PM  UPDATED 29 May 2017 - 4:11 PM

#ItAintWeakToSpeak - that’s the message of Clark’s ‘Kicking the Stigma’ project.

The 23-year-old has been campaigning for mental health awareness especially amongst men, many of whom will discuss their training session – but not depression.

“People my age and younger are taking their lives and we, as a footballing fraternity, can do our bit to help those suffering with mental health issues.”

Young Aboriginal people are four times more likely to take their own life than their non-Aboriginal peers. The suicide rate of young Aboriginal men is the highest in the world.

Jackson’s lives and breathes sport. He not only plays it, but has also worked as a sports journalist. Now his aim is to help mates on the field, play their next game.

“You don’t have to have suffered from a mental health disorder to put up your hand and be willing to help others that are.”

“We all know someone that is suffering from a mental illness.”

But it's the positive messages from mates that Clark says, 'make this all worth it'. He thanked Port Adelaide ruckman, Matthew Lobbe for getting behind the Kicking the Stigma Program as he received a heartfelt message from a local footballer who shared his story.

"Thank you for promoting #ItAintWeakToSpeak mate. I myself am a footballer and six months ago was told I suffer from anxiety and depression. It took me five months to tell anyone and tomorrow I am finally going to a psychologist for the first time to try and talk about it more. If it wasn't for people like yourself promoting this at football clubs, I still don't think I would have told anyone about what I am going through. So thank you again and keep up the great work," the local footballer said in an online post.

In his quest to 'kick the stigma', Clark played for the Banks Bulldogs (Northern Territory), Coolangatta Blues (QLD), Coffs Breakers (NSW), Gungahlin Jets (ACT), Lara (Victoria), Glenorchy (Tasmania), Paskeville (South Australia) and Warnbro (Western Australia).

On his journey, he has conducted social media campaigns to encourage coaches, players and supporters of football clubs to seek help regarding mental health concerns.

“We all know someone that is suffering from a mental illness,” Clark said.

“These people should not have to suffer in silence or feel ashamed to speak out and seek help regarding their problems.”

Clark says it’s important to target the people that wouldn’t get help on their own.

“The beauty of involving football clubs in this project is that we are able to reach such a broad demographic of people – both genders, all ages and different cultural backgrounds – in what is stereotypically a macho environment.”

Several high-profile AFL players have reached out to support the cause including former Brisbane Lions captain Tom Rockliff and Gold Coast Suns Captain Steven May.

The born and bred Territorian has always been an advocate for mental health.

He is an ambassador for non-for-profit charity Livin and currently the advisor of a developing Mental health app called IF. The App is a concept derived from Darwin businessmen Clint Hoffmann. who lost a close friend to suicide. 

In late 2015, Clark was given the role as the NTFL’s Beyond Blue Round Ambassador. Here he was able to assist the league’s mental health awareness campaign.

Clark doesn’t want his mission to end just yet. Instead he says this is just the beginning.

“Hopefully this weekend is not the end of the journey, I’d love to be able to cover more regions and continue to spread the message to different football clubs around Australia.”

He is planning to continue this journey until the June 30 transfer cut-off date and is also appealing for any financial contributions from local or national businesses to help fund his travels.

“If you want to see this project continue, please feel free to get in contact with me so we can kick the stigma together.”

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