Veteran Hockeyroo Rachael Lynch knows all too well the stress that comes from high pressure environments.
The Hockeyroos goalkeeper, Olympian and registered nurse is as passionate about mental health as she is about field hockey.
Rachael is one of 22 elite athletes selected as Lifeline Community Custodians as part of a partnership between Australian Institute of Sport and Lifeline Australia.
She is stepping up to help increase awareness around suicide prevention in the run up to Mental Health Week and encouraging anyone who needs support to reach out and ask for help.
“Mental health and wellbeing are important to everyone,” Rachael said.
“Sport is not immune to that. Certainly, at a higher level, you put yourself in high pressure environments that can create stress and pressure. The sporting world has such an emphasis on physical health and sometimes we forget about mental health.
“Upskilling people, educating and trying to remove the stigma and generally supporting each other is the goal. Everyone plays a role in that.”
Rachael has been an advocate for good mental health for about a decade, and says when it comes to health and wellbeing, it’s about connecting with the people in our lives.
“I’m pretty passionate about mental health. Essentially, it’s about connecting with people, looking after your physical health, checking in on each other and listening,” Rachael added.
“It’s just really simple stuff that if we can implement in our day to day lives with the people around us, then hopefully we can prevent small things escalating into crisis or a mental illness.”
When it comes to what to say to someone who is doing it tough, Rachael advises to start by listening without judgement.
“It’s about listening to them, just being there as a support but trying to understand and hear what’s going on for them,” she said.
“Sometimes that’s all you need to do. And from there, try to encourage them to do something – go for a walk, go for a coffee and chat to someone. Maybe a referral to Lifeline WA or to their doctor. There are lots of resources available, which is great. From there, you continue to keep an eye on them and support them where you can.
“I think you never really know what someone is going through. COVID has definitely highlighted that there are a lot of people under a lot of stress at the moment – it could be work, it could be anything like that.
“But I guess if you’re not taking the steps to check in and see what’s going on for them then you might not know. We’re all good at being private and keeping things to ourselves, but just checking in and showing someone that you care and are there for them is so important.”
Mental Health Week takes place from October 9-16 and aims to raise awareness of Lifeline WA’s crisis support and suicide prevention services.
Lifeline’s 24/7 telephone crisis support service is available on 13 11 14.