Chris Newman was diagnosed at the age of 14 with two forms of cancer and was told that he may not make it to the age of 15. However, he defied those odds to only then be told they he would never be able to play his favourite sport, Rugby League again. Many years later while living in Samoa and developing Rugby League from scratch he learnt they had the highest youth suicide rate in the world. And then after his time there Chris spent 2 years in the Pilbara in WA where the isolation took its toll and he sunk into a deep depression.
Overcoming life’s adversities and through his work in rugby league, coaching and developing the next generation, Chris developed a passion for improving the lives of others and reducing the stigma around mental health. Realising he has the ability to influence their thinking and encourage them to look out for their mates. Chris is now a community ambassador for R U OK? and volunteers his time to share the message with organisations and communities.
The Hey Sport R U OK? campaign makes free resources available to clubs, teams and associations so they can proactively embed an R U OK? Culture to encourage everyone involved to support each other both on and off the field. The ‘Hey Sport, R U OK?’ resources have been developed to help coaches, administrators and participants build a safe and supportive culture in their sporting community,” said Katherine Newton, R U OK? CEO. “Sport plays a crucial role in communities for everyone irrespective of age, ethnicity, gender or geographic location,” said Ms Newton. “Being part of a local team or sports club gives people the opportunity to form strong social connections and engender a sense of belonging.
“We know that R U OK? conversations work best when they are authentic and there is trust. Involvement with sporting clubs, teams, and associations present opportunities for meaningful conversations to take place,” she said. “Is someone on your team not engaging as much as they usually do, or not turning up for training? Maybe you know there’s something big going on in their life? We want to build confidence so everyone can spot the signs someone might need an R U OK? conversation.”
“I was in the darkest spot of my life and contemplating suicide. The thing that stopped me was a phone call from a mate. I tried to put on a brave face, but it was a FaceTime call, he could see my expression and I sort of burst into tears. He asked then, ‘are you OK?’ I said ‘yeah, yeah’ but he said ‘na, na’. Everything started to de-escalate from there,” said Newman.
“Sport at every level makes you feel part of something. You're part of a team, whether you're a player, the coach, the official, the manager, the family cheering at the sidelines or the referee they are all part of community sport and it creates that comradery and mateship. It's an outlet for people to look after themselves and to look out for others, almost like a second family"