Management of Mental Health has been a priority for Lin Jong as he has navigated both the highs and lows of a storied AFL career. The journey from a young, relatively unknown rookie draftee to best player for a VFL premiership thrust a young man into the media spotlight very early on. His years that followed the Doggies premiership didn’t map a regular trajectory, and Mental Health has been something that Lin has since learned is a beast of its own. Our Co-Founder and once fellow VFL premiership teammate Mitch Hannan sat down with Lin to discuss how opening up about his own mental health to family, friends and teammates has bred a new focus on his mental wellbeing, and what strategies he utilises to keep mentally fit and well.
“I'd put it off for a fair while, until it got to the point where I thought that I had no other option but to talk about my mental health before things got a lot worse”
L.J - “It was tough because I didn't know how to go about it at first, but in our industry we are so fortunate that we have club psychologists and so many resources that we can go to, whereas your everyday person probably wouldn't... But they had steps in place and measures to take, and I think the most important thing was to make me feel like it wasn't doing the wrong thing by coming out and saying this, or feel embarrassed by it - because there is a bit of a wall when someone wants to talk about how they're feeling”
“All it takes is to ask someone how they are going, if you notice little things here and there - again that’s why it is so tough because there is a balance between not pushing too hard, but just making sure that they know that you're there when they need you, because you’d obviously rather say something than not say anything at all”
M.H - ‘What sort of things do you do to keep yourself in check, and ensure your mental health is kept front of mind?’
L.J - "Day to day, it’s important not to change too much in your everyday life - making sure you're still socialising and active, and to continue finding things that you enjoy. Things like a hit of golf or a coffee with a mate are critical, and not to just sit on the couch and do nothing, or lay in bed.
M.H - "That often seems like the easy option, I remember thinking that myself. That you will get this instant relief by staying at home where you get that little hit of feeling safe - but as the day goes on, the more you isolate yourself the more you are within your own head.
“Sometimes your mind can be your own worst enemy - a lot of the time actually”
L.J - 'That's why it is so important to keep chatting with people to keep up to date with how both you and they are. Initially, I always found that some mornings I wouldn't feel quite right, waking up anxious or with the desire to not do anything - so these days when I wake up in the morning, I make sure I am in check with my mental space and know how I'm feeling. It's ok to feel like that sometimes, but it is also important to be proactive even if you do feel that way. I can only speak for my own experience, but I let that happen a few too many times, which probably led to the downward slope of my own mental health.
M.H - “Are you at a place where these conversations extend to family and friends, outside the football club?”
L.J - “I am quite close with my family. But its a tough thing, and I found this when I came out openly and said I was struggling - it's a tough conversation to have with your parents especially. Obviously they just want the best for you. It's a tough thing to say that you're not doing that well, and that you don't need to do anything, but I just wanted to let you know. And you know your parents, they are always there, but it is a tricky one”
“The important thing for me is that I didn't want anyone to treat me differently. I didn't want anyone to feel sorry for me”
L.J - “For me personally, I didn't want to feel that I was a burden on other people, and that's also a reason why some people might struggle to come out and say that they are struggling, because they don't want people to feel they have to go out of their way to help. But it is so vital to have people that you can talk to, they are your support network whether you see it at that time or not”