Jackson Clark had never met his new Gungahlin Jets teammates just days out from his AFL Canberra first grade debut, so he knew he had to speak up.Now he wants others to do the same.
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Jackson Clark is on a football pilgrimage, playing one game of football in each of Australia?s states and territories in the one season. Photo: Jamila Toderas Photo: Jamila Toderas The Northern Territory-based radio presenter is three weeks into a nomadic football journey that will take him all around the country to open discussions about mental health.Clark has seen friends and former teammates suffer from mental health disorders and in a bid to rid football clubs of the stigmas surrounding them, he is aiming to be the first person to play at least one game of football in each state in the one season.He isn’t trying to score a contract – while he has played at VFL level, Clark knows he won’t make a career out of football – he is trying to change the landscape of men’s sport by getting people to open up.”I’ve had a lot of football experience playing in Victoria and different areas, and I thought football clubs are a perfect demographic,” Clark said.
“It’s traditionally a macho and masculine environment, and it’s an environment where many people would feel uncomfortable talking about their mental health issues.”I wanted to create a change in that demographic. I want football clubs to openly help their players, supporters and coaches that feel as though they’re suffering from mental health concerns with no questions asked.”Clark wants football clubs to become “a safe space” for people where they feel comfortable talking about their feelings, because as the Livin charity slogan goes, “it ain’t weak to speak”.”I want people to be able to go to the hierarchy at football clubs and say ‘hey, I’m suffering from depression or anxiety, I need to take a couple of weeks off’,” Clark said. “I don’t want those people to say ‘are you sure? You’ll be right’. If someone had cancer or if someone has a physical illness that you could see, no one would ask any questions.”I want these football clubs to be respective and open to people who are suffering from mental health [issues].”Having kicked off his pilgrimage with games for Coolangatta and …