As a young kid, growing up, I was very fortunate to have strong relationships with sporting coaches who always believed in me.

Coaches who helped me to focus on my strengths, and grow from the challenges.

Not only through sport, but also in life.

I understand the powerful role that coaches and sporting clubs can have in building resilient young humans, and creating a culture that is respectful, positive and fair. I have experienced first hand what it is to have someone believe in you, and walk beside you through your fear and struggle. I also know what it is to be encouraged, and how it feels to be supported by genuine people who never give up on you.

I am passionate about creating opportunities for young people to find their voice, define their values, and understand their purpose in life. I want to help young people develop a strong sense of self worth and support them to carve out a meaningful life for themselves.

I have personally been impacted by mental illness. My family have also been affected by suicide. 9 months after the birth of my daughter, I was diagnosed with depression. I was hospitalised in a mental health unit for 5 weeks.

My condition was severe. The diagnosis was post natal depression with symptoms of psychosis and Generalised Anxiety Disorder. I had lost all sense of hope and future, and I believed that there was no possible way that I could ever recover from the horror that I was in. I was ready to give up. The internal dialogue in my head was constant and I remember thinking that everything would be better if I were gone from here. Unbearable, that is how I would describe it. I remember sitting in the emptiness and the stillness for hours, with my head on the floor.

I formed firm beliefs that I had harmed my daughter. In my head, I was a cruel mother. I hated myself. I believed that my daughter had become seriously unwell, and that it was all my fault. I was incredibly distressed. This was the first time in my life that I had ever felt guilt, and it was soul-destroying.

My desperation was such that I remember telling my Dad that I wanted to die. I wanted him to help me kill myself. I believed that if he truly understood my pain, he would help me to take it away.

He was very calm, and said: “Mate, I’ve been there, where you are… Just promise me one thing, before you do anything to yourself, come and see me”.

I work in the adolescent health field. In this space, I have successfully designed and embedded an empowerment program for teenage girls, that uses footy as a platform. The program creates an opportunity for girls to connect, learn, grow & lead. It is a practical strengths-based model that has successfully re-engaged kids at school, and therefore played a significant role in rebuilding protective factors for young people.

My lived experience through mental illness has given me insight. I understand what it feels like to be without hope. For me, it is undeniable, I must do something with this experience. The pain that I have known can build strength, resilience and hope for others. If I do nothing, it will always sit there as pain.

Written by Bridget Franc / Community Ambassador

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