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