‘“Speak out, speak up, protect.” That is our catch cry.’ We hear from David Langley who founded ‘The Read the Play’ Program in 2006- an innovative program which addresses the health and well-being of young people. ‘‘We regularly receive testimonials from parents who thank us for saving their kids’ lives.
‘I saw a need after experiencing some family concerns. I’ve always been community-minded and I wanted to do something. Statistics show that one in four youths will experience mental health problems and that our target audience would be 14-16 year olds. I got talking to people – Headspace, Barwon Health, the Police, Football and Netball Clubs – and these groups assisted in writing a program which ran for 2 years. It was originally delivered in an informative classroom style, but following a review of the program it became an interactive game which the kids embrace.
‘We’ve enlisted mental health experts to deliver the program which is run in Football and Netball Clubs. They just have to give us a room and get some kids along. Initially it reached about 600 youths a year. This year we’ve had over 2,000 participants in Geelong and 4,000 over 7 regions, we celebrated the 20,000th young person to have participated in the program.
‘Every participant receives information on where to go if they’re feeling different or they see a change in themselves or their friends. We encourage them to speak up. If it’s a friend, talk to them about it. If they are reluctant to talk, talk to someone else they trust such as the club Wellbeing Officer, another club member or a teacher. The youths all receive a plastic card with all the help numbers listed.
‘We run two programs over 2 years. Each is only an hour long. We get the kids to fill in a pre- and post- review and we can tell from this data that we are changing the mindset. Our program covers issues such as suicide, depression, bipolar, eating disorders and self-harming. Because it is executed by health professionals they can give the right responses and often they pick up on particular kids. They quietly take them aside afterwards and have a chat. Essentially, we are a conduit for Headspace and other mental health organisations. We have heard from the first ones to have completed the program who are now about 26.
‘Where to from here? We have a very strong Board including Gail Rodgers from the Geelong Foundation, Keith Fagg, Genevieve Sunderland, Rob MacDonald and Sarah Albon. We are putting together a 3 year strategic plan, then we’ll have a full review performed by Deakin.
‘It is important to raise the profile of ‘Read the Play’ http://www.readtheplay.org.au/ https://www.facebook.com/readtheplay/ and we are looking for sponsors. Kempe Engineering have been our biggest sponsors financially and in kind. Bendigo Bank have also been awesome since Day 1. The Geelong Football Club is our community partner and we’re talking to other AFL Clubs. We’ve got other regions knocking on our door who’ve heard of this life-saving program. We’d like to reach further and perhaps get into select schools. Personally, I feel privileged to have helped so many youths and their families.’