Updated: Mar 12
One Tamworth footy club has started the conversation around mental health this week.
The Melbourne-based Hayden Butler Foundation hosted two workshops with the North Tamworth Bears to educate and provide tools to players who are struggling as well as those around them.
Founder of the Hayden Butler Foundation, Roberta, said the sudden death of her son in 2015 made her realise more conversations needed to be had within the rugby league community regarding suicide and mental health.
“By all accounts his career was on the up, he was on the pathway to the Melbourne Storm, and nothing was out of the ordinary when he visited us in the weeks before for Christmas and New Year’s,” shared Roberta.
The high-pressure expectations within the elite football scene including maintaining a high playing level and maintaining physique mixed with the challenges of contracts ending and relocating interstate were all factors in Hayden’s decision.
The Hayden Butler Foundation travels to clubs across Victoria and now NSW sharing Hayden’s story, empowering everyone and anyone to reach out for help.
“We educate, we do workshops, we provide tools that players can use anywhere, anytime, whether it be at school, at training or at home,” said Roberta.
“It’s all about encouraging not just the person struggling but the people around them as well. It’s complex and it’s about community. It’s everybody involved – the mentors, coaches, teammates – it’s encouraging anybody struggling to reach out.”
Tamworth Bears First Grade Coach, Paul Boyce, said partnering with the Hayden Butler Foundation was a no brainer.
“I actually used to coach Hayden back in my Melbourne days and so I have followed Roberta and her journey for quite some time,” he said.
“I also believe having people being rugby league specific with lived experience like The Hayden Butler Foundation is the most beneficial for the players as well.”
The discussions of mental health will continue within the North Tamworth Bears, having a male and female Welfare Officer brought on board to continue crucial player support.
North Tamworth Bears players with The Hayden Butler Foundation Founder, Roberta Butler.