One former and two current Hockeyroos are among 22 athletes to be announced as AIS-Lifeline Community Custodians for 2020-21.

Dual Olympic gold medallist Juliet Haslam and current Hockeyroos squad members Rachael Lynch and Georgia Wilson will lend their voices to Lifeline’s first ever National Emergency Appeal which is in direct response to the impact of COVID-19. The campaign ‘You’ve got 30 seconds to save a life’ is aiming to raise $5million to fill the funding gap caused by cancellation of key fundraising events, storefront closures and an increasing demand for services.

Now in its second year, the partnership between the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) and Lifeline Australia will help deliver the impactful community engagement program, with athletes stepping up to help increase awareness around suicide prevention and encourage anyone who needs support to reach out and ask for help.

This will be Wilson’s second year in the program and her keenness to be involved comes from her own experience. The 23 year old previously suffered from depression and anxiety, driven largely by having a perfectionist outlook which saw her never thinking who she was or what she was doing was good enough.

“For me, making sure that I’m a public advocate and speaking about my own anxiety, but also the body image and self esteem issues I dealt with when I was younger were the main reasons I wanted to be involved again,” said Wilson.

“Eating disorders ran in our family and my sister and I battled with that, so letting people know about what the characteristics and developments are and not being afraid to seek help is also really important.

“It gets tucked under the carpet a lot of the time. A lot of athletes who are role models need to be willing to speak about it and for me, the important thing is having people there to support me the entire way.”

Juliet Haslam in action for the Hockeyroos at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

For Haslam, who is a Director on the Hockey Australia Board, it is a program she is proud to be part of and contribute to.

“This AIS/Lifeline initiative provides an incredible opportunity to connect with communities, share our own stories of resilience, and encourage everyone to open up and talk about mental health and wellbeing,” said Haslam.

“In the last two or three years, I think there has been real progress in mental health awareness, but there is still a long way to go, so I want to encourage everyone to start conversations about mental health; normalise it so that it’s something that’s OK to talk about.”

Further resonating for Haslam, a mother of two teenage boys, is that one of the highest risk categories of suicide is young men.

“I want my sons, their friends and all young people to know that it’s OK to feel down and that there is somewhere to go for help,” said Haslam.

“Everyone needs to be able to feel comfortable to talk openly about their issues and concerns.

“This program will hopefully help people who are in emotional distress, feel that they are able to reach out, and to provide hope and connection back into our community.”

Rachael Lynch.

Mental health awareness and is also close to Lynch’s heart. The 2019 FIH Goalkeeper of the Year has experience dealing with mental health through her job as a qualified nurse, while she is also an ambassador for R U OK Day, a suicide prevention charity.

“I think by partnering with Lifeline it is a slightly different angle and opportunity for me to learn a bit more about the space and have a slightly different involvement, but also to be part of a community of athletes that share that common interest,” said Lynch.

“Everyone that can help in this space is valuable so I’m keen to be part of the team doing that and if we’re in a position where we’ve got some kind of profile that might help, then hopefully that’s beneficial for Lifeline as well.”

Lifeline Australia CEO Colin Seery said he was ‘delighted the Lifeline Community Custodians are supporting our Emergency Appeal’.

“We know many athletes would be finding this time very difficult after the postponement of the Tokyo Games. So, it is a really selfless act for them to help us ensure that every Australian has the opportunity to connect with Lifeline if they are struggling through COVID-19,” said Seery.

“It is both a testament to their strength of character and Australian spirit, they are a great group of athletes. We are very grateful.”

The custodians will spend some time together as a network and maximise the opportunity to work in collaboration on this program.

For a full list of 2020-21 Lifeline Community Custodians and to find out more about the AIS and Lifeline Community Custodians program – visit https://ais.gov.au/custodians

To donate to the Lifeline National Emergency Appeal – visit https://fundraise.lifeline.org.au/emergency-appeal

You can contact Lifeline by phone on 13 11 14 (24 hours / 7 days) or chat to a Crisis Supporter via text on 0477 13 11 14 (6pm – midnight).