GEELONG boxer Kristy Harris is among 21 athletes from 13 sports selected to be the inaugural Lifeline Community Custodians, a program with the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) that will see athletes become advocates for mental health and positive community spirit.
Olympic, Paralympic and Commonwealth Games athletes from across the country will be involved in the program, jointly designed by the AIS and Lifeline Australia to reduce the stigma of mental health and promote the positive contributions athletes and sport can make to their communities.
AIS director of athlete wellbeing and engagement Matti Clements said the team of Community Custodians would spend the next 12 months raising mental health awareness in their communities and their sports.
“At the AIS we know the positive influence sport and athletes have in their communities and the inspiration they provide, so this program is about spreading that positivity far and wide across Australia.
“A partnership with Lifeline is fantastic because these athletes will be attending community events, telling their own personal stories of resilience but also benefitting from personal development.”
Lifeline Australia chief executive officer Colin Seery said the organisation was proud to partner with the AIS and thanked the Community Custodians, who join a national movement of more than 10,000 Lifeline volunteers and 1,000 employees.
“In 2017, there were 3,128 lives lost to suicide in Australia, a nine per cent increase on the year before and one life lost every three hours. Every life taken is a son, daughter, mother, father, brother or sister lost for ever.
“Lifeline receives one million contacts every year to our national number (13 11 14) and suicide prevention services. We are here because no person in Australia should have to face their darkest moments alone.”
Australian Opals women’s basketball captain Jenna O’Hea will lead the team of Community Custodians, having lost her uncle to suicide in 2018 and then initiating a Lifeline round in the Women’s National Basketball League.
“It is a strength, not a weakness, to ask for help and I think a lot of people are willing to help as long as you ask,” she said.
“I’m proud to be one of the inaugural Community Custodians and spread the valuable messages on behalf of Lifeline Australia, which is available for 24/7 support.”