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Schwass' advice for AFL and AFLPA on mental health and illicit drug use


Mental health advocate Wayne Schwass has some advice for the AFL and the AFL Players Association.

Yesterday, 3AW’s Ross Stevenson reported that one club had 16 players using mental health as an excuse to avoid illicit drug tests.

While admitting he doesn’t know whether that is factual, Schwass gave his thoughts on SEN Breakfast.

“What I’d like to say, and I’m not an expert in how we treat people with illicit drug problems, I think we’d be naïve to believe there wouldn’t be a percentage of players across the competition that have made those decisions – they’ve taken substances and they’ve used mental health as an issue,” he said.

“I think the intention of the current illicit drug policy is to help those that have legitimate drug issues and drug problems and also legitimate mental health conditions.

“I think that the system and the way it’s currently being implemented and executed does leave gaps in the system for players to be able to exploit this.

“So in regards to what (the AFL) needs to do, it frustrates me greatly that there (could) be players using (mental health) as an out-clause because that puts every other player who has legitimate mental health conditions in the same boat and they’re not in the same boat. These are really complex issues.

“I’m not aware of any players. Nobody has spoken to me about it, but I think we need to be realistic enough to think that we’d be naïve to think that there aren’t players that have made those decisions.

“The AFL have a responsibility to review it. Maybe they’re reviewing it consistently, but if you’ve got Peter Gordon, Jeff Kennett and Eddie McGuire saying that this is an issue, we have to listen to what they’re saying.”

Schwass would like to see AFL clubs given more power to deal with players who have legitimate issues.

“I know the AFL Players Association want to be the organisation that is helping delivering services with mental health conditions. I don’t believe they’re the right organisation for that,” Schwass said.

“I the clubs that have the relationships and intimate relationship with players are best placed with appropriate professionals to manage and support players going through significant mental health conditions.

“If there are players that are saying they’re dealing with mental health conditions as a way of getting out of any punishment or any responsibility for taking illicit drugs, I’d like to think there’s a pattern of behaviour, there are certain things with regards to a player’s behaviour that would indicate that they are potentially living with mental health conditions, but if there’s no history of a player who has actively sought out professional support internally or externally, and then all of a sudden they’ve used mental health in regards to getting out of a punishment that would be a red flag that I would want to investigate.”

If you or anyone you know needs mental health help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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