Sport

Alex McKinnon interview highlights mental health in NRL

MAJOR PROBLEMS: Alex McKinnon’s 60 Minutes interview has created a great deal of turmoil among the NRL community.
MAJOR PROBLEMS: Alex McKinnon’s 60 Minutes interview has created a great deal of turmoil among the NRL community. GRANT TROUVILLE

RUGBY LEAGUE: The emotional story of Alex McKinnon took another turn over the weekend after his revealing 60 Minutes interview.

The interview made headlines due to the comments McKinnon made about the Melbourne Storm and in particular captain Cameron Smith which have raised some heated opinions.

While the fallout follows who blames who, the most concerning talking point from the interview were the comments the Knights player made about the mental turmoil the injury left him in.

McKinnon admitted to thoughts of suicide when it was clear the injury would be a long term problem.

"I didn't want to be alive, I honestly didn't," McKinnon told Channel Nine.

"I just wanted to die; I honestly didn't want to be alive. I just felt like it was torture, that's just the way I felt."

For a player of his status to feel so helpless is a frightening insight.

Suicide in rugby league has already been a worrying development with five NRL contracted players having committed suicide in the last two years alone.

McKinnon's comments highlight how even a player of his standing, with a campaign running to raise funds to help his medical costs, can still be left having such dark thoughts.

Local suicide prevention activist Johno Felton believes the pressure the game, fans, families and the players themselves put on an individual can be too much to handle.

"Anyone can fall into that dark place," Felton said. "It's that kind of pressure that hurts your self esteem."

Missing selection or sustaining an injury are moments of extreme stress and pressure for a professional player of any elite sport.

Felton is a strong supporter of groups like Men in League and the Livin initiative, a Queensland based organisation raising awareness for mental health disorders and suicide prevention.

They advocate the message "It ain't weak to speak" with an aim to break the stigma surrounding mental health and what stops players from speaking up.

The outpouring of support McKinnon's story has prompted should encourage future players in similar positions to speak up and seek help.

NEED HELP? Lifeline is always available on 13 11 14.

Topics:  60 minutes mental health rugby league