Fel­low­ship aims to help vul­ner­a­ble rugby league play­ers Group stands for life

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - VIC­TO­RIA NU­GENT vic­to­ria. nu­gent@ news. com. au

A NEW fel­low­ship be­ing launched tonight will aim to re­duce suicide rates among young rugby league play­ers in the re­gion with the help of a high- profile pa­tron.

The Bishop Michael Put­ney Fel­low­ship was cre­ated by the Townsville En­ter­prise Emerg­ing Lead­ers project group un­der the aus­pices of the Trop­i­cal Brain and Mind Foun­da­tion in mem­ory of the late Bishop of Townsville, who was a board mem­ber.

Tonight’s launch will be at­tended by the fel­low­ship’s new pa­tron, Air Chief Mar­shal Sir An­gus Hous­ton.

Trop­i­cal Brain and Mind Foun­da­tion chair­man and neu­ro­sci­en­tist Max Ben­nett said Gover­nor- Gen­eral Sir Peter Cos­grove had ini­tially been in­volved with the fel­low­ship but had to with­draw be­cause of time con­straints af­ter his ap­point­ment to the role.

“I think the first coup was to have Sir Peter Cos­grove … and then it’s great to have the role go to Sir An­gus Hous­ton,” he said.

The Trop­i­cal Brain and Mind Foun­da­tion was formed in 2014 in re­sponse to grow­ing sta­tis­tics of men­tal health, men­tal ill­ness and suicide rates in trop­i­cal ar­eas, fo­cus­ing on men­tal ill­nesses preva­lent in North­ern Aus­tralia.

Prof Ben­nett said suicide rates in re­gions in­clud­ing in the trop­ics were con­cern­ing.

“The rate of suicide in Aus­tralia is 10 per­sons per 100,000 per year,” he said.

“The rates of suicide in Townsville were above the na­tional av­er­age so we wanted to look at that.”

The foun­da­tion has raised more than $ 150,000 to en­gage two re­searchers at James Cook Univer­sity to in­ves­ti­gate risk and re­silience fac­tors among rugby league play­ers.

The re­search will be car­ried out by Pro­fes­sor Brett McDer­mott and Pro­fes­sor Zoltan Sarnyai over a three- year pe­riod in Townsville, Mackay, Cairns and Rock­hamp­ton.

Prof Ben­nett said one thing the re­search would help to de­ter­mine was the ef­fect of re­peated head in­juries on the men­tal health of rugby league play­ers.

“You can see the changes to sec­tions of the brain,” he said.

HIGH PROFILE: Air Chief Mar­shal Sir An­gus Hous­ton is pa­tron of a new fel­low­ship.

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