• Greg Inglis and Owen Craigie (NITV)Source: NITV
Indigenous rugby league greats Greg Inglis and Owen Craigie have launched mental health programs aimed at addressing the high prevalence of suicide and mental illness in Indigenous communities.
Mikele Syron

20 Aug 2020 - 7:11 PM  UPDATED 20 Aug 2020 - 7:12 PM

Greg Inglis and Owen Craigie have launched separate initiatives aimed at providing support to improving mental health outcomes of Indigenous men.

The NRL stars have utilised their profiles as sportsmen, their strong rapport in the community, and their own public battles with mental illness to promote their programs and encourage engagement from the Indigenous community.

Chasing the Energy

Gomeroi man, Owen Craigie told NITV News that his initiative ‘Chase the Energy”, was developed in collaboration with his friend Tristian Lumney during the COVID19 lockdowns, when Craigie noticed a rapid deterioration in his own mental health and began struggling to keep on top of his sobriety.

“I was totally lost. I was just couch surfing, laying around going through it all on my own – the trauma, the urges, the mental health, but what better way to start your new life than at the bottom of the barrel when the only way is up”.

‘Chase the Energy’ has had ongoing success across a variety of social media platforms in creating a virtual community of like-minded people who have experienced similar struggles and have similar goals. 

Craigie said the project, which started out as an interactive social media account that documented his quest to improving his life and overall mental wellbeing, quickly gained traction and public interest with swarms of people reaching out to tell him how helpful the tool had been in their own journeys.  

“It’s something accessible to the Indigenous community all over that is good for the mind, body and spirit. It’s all about getting active and encouraging people to burn off the dead energy in their lives and create good energy by improving their health as well as their mindset” Mr Craigie said.

Craigie said that the common theme of mental health struggles and high rates of suicide amongst the Indigenous population is devastating to the community, but he believes his movement can be utilised as a positive tool to tackle these issues.

Craigie and Lumney said that over the next 12 months, they would like to expand the movement from social media and develop merchandise and get support from Aboriginal medical services nationwide to embrace the project as a method of holistic treatment for mental illness within the Indigenous community.

“Not only will this create positive leadership and reinforce a sense of purpose, but this holistic approach to improving mental and physical health could also bridge the life expectancy gap amongst our people”.

The Goanna Academy

Greg Inglis’ program, ‘The Goanna Academy’ launched on Wednesday and will try to end the stigma around mental health amongst men and the wider Indigenous community.

The program will see frequent clinics in various communities, mentoring and increased access to educational resources around mental health.

Inglis told nrl.com.au that after retiring from rugby league he noticed a deterioration in his mental health, but with a proper diagnosis and access to professional tools to help him with coping day-to-day, he was inspired to help others.

Inglis said in a statement, that his desire to contribute to improving outcomes for Indigenous mental health is driven by his own experiences and his devotion to ensuring that other people do not struggle in solitude.

“The Goanna Academy was created to help change lives for the better and break the cycle of increasing cases of poor mental health among young people, adults, and Indigenous communities.”

Shane Richardson, former general manager of the South Sydney Rabbitohs and collaborator of the newly launched program said Inglis feels deeply inspired to give back to the community and will work to build trust in remote communities and act as a conduit for people who need to access services that offer comprehensive mental health support.

"Greg will be able to open doors and talk openly about mental health in a way that makes people feel really comfortable... As a respected and passionate leader, he has the opportunity to do things that the government can't because the Indigenous community are much more likely to build trust with him."

Richardson said that as a role model to Indigenous youth and communities, Inglis' honesty about his own struggles will be an effective tool for starting an important and open conversation about mental health.

“The long-term goal is to create champions who go on to reinforce the positive philosophies of the academy in whatever their chosen fields are,” Richardson told NITV News.