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Read the Play Murrumbidgee

Murrumbidgee Local Health District
Project Added:
27 May 2015
Last updated:
16 June 2015

Read the Play Murrumbidgee


Read the Play is a mental health literacy program designed for junior levels of sports clubs. It provides information about mental illness through fun and interactive games, helping remove the stigma of mental illness and increase help-seeking behaviour.


To increase young people’s knowledge and awareness of mental health problems and encourage them to support each other’s mental wellbeing.


  • Equips young people with information about the signs and symptoms of mental health problems.
  • Breaks down the stigma associated with mental illness.
  • Provides young people with the language and literacy around mental health and mental illness.
  • Provides informative resources on a range of mental illnesses and local support services available.
  • Improves the confidence and skills of participants and encourages early access to services, to avoid long-term poor mental health outcomes.
  • Supports the Player Wellbeing Officer with a consultant who is working in the field of youth mental health.
  • Imparts information about mental illness by engaging participant players in fun and interactive games.
  • Emphasises the confidential nature of sharing personal information on the topic of mental wellbeing.
  • Forms strong partnerships with community members and sporting clubs within the area.

Project Status

Project status

  • Implementation - the initiative is currently being piloted.

Key dates

  • Project start: 7 March 2014
  • Project evaluation: 30 June 2015


Youth mental health is a significant and growing health issue in Australia. One in four young people aged 12-25 years have a mental illness. However, only one in four affected young people receive professional help.

In an attempt to address this concern, David Langley of Kempe Engineering engaged Headspace Barwon Education Officer Julie Arnall and Headspace Barwon Manager Toni van Hammond, to develop a presentation that would improve the mental health of young people in Geelong, Victoria. Read the Play was established in 2006 as an interactive program delivered to young people aged 15 and under, in the form of a games night run by a mental health professional and the club’s player wellbeing officer. The program has since been adapted with enhancements to meet the needs of the sporting community and participants. It is overseen by a program manager and governed by the Kempe Read the Play Board.

Read the Play was identified by the rural mental health coordinator of Murrumbidgee Local Health District (MLHD) as a valuable initiative. Extensive consultation resulted in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Riverina Bluebell and Kempe Read the Play Board, to implement the successful Victorian program into rural NSW. Riverina Bluebell and the Rural Adversity Mental Health Program formed a partnership to purchase the program’s educational packages and equipment.


  • Developed MOU with Kempe Read the Play Board and purchased education packages and equipment.
  • Implemented Read the Play program, comprising two sessions which are delivered alternatively on an annual basis:
    • 'Know What to Say' focuses on starting the conversation about mental health and mental illness
    • 'Know the Way', harnesses the awareness of mental illness to encourage help-seeking behaviour. Emphasis is also given to suicide prevention through ‘Speak Up, Speak Out and Protect’.
  • The 90 minute sessions were delivered by MLHD rural mental health coordinators who were trained by the manager of Read the Play Geelong to facilitate the presentations.
  • Secured mental health professionals to provide ongoing support and assistance to the club and the player wellbeing officer. The player wellbeing officer continues to care for junior members by providing information, developing positive relationships and encouraging help-seeking behaviour.
  • Implemented modifications to the Victorian Read the Play kit, to make the educational packages more youth focused and appropriate to rural NSW.
  • Created pre- and post-surveys to measure participant and presenter feedback.
Read the Play Murrumbidgee team
Children participating in Read the Play

Implementation sites

  • Wagga and District Junior and South West Junior Football Leagues were invited to participate, including Coolamon, Northern Jets, Ganmain Grong Grong Matong and Temora. Lake Cargelligo became aware of the initiative and asked to participate in the two-year pilot.


  • Kempe Read the Play Geelong
  • Riverina Bluebell
  • Rural Adversity Mental Health Program
  • Australian Football League (AFL) NSW/ACT


  • Pre- and post-program surveys were created and structured to ensure statistical validity. At the start of the presentation, participants fill in a survey individually. The survey is retained and a reflection survey is filled in at the end of the presentation. Presenters collect all surveys and return them to the program manager for collation in a formal report.
  • A total of six sessions were held with a total of 100 players participating in Read the Play ‘Know What to Say’ education.
  • On completion of the season, presenters fill out a feedback form providing an overview of their experiences across the season. The information is collated and forwarded to the program manager for further discussion in a group setting. This allows the team to review, renew and improve the educational packages. From these discussions, it was found that certain activities were not youth-focused and modifications were required. Suitable suggestions were made and implemented accordingly.
  • In 2014, participants indicated a clear shift in their level of understanding of mental health problems by stating they felt they had a higher level of understanding after completing the program. They clearly specified local services where they could go for help with a mental health problem and felt more confident and capable in seeking help for a mental health problem, not only for themselves but also for a friend.

Graph of total participants by area

Lessons Learnt

  • A combined group of Australian footlball and netball players is more effective in rural communities.
  • Presenters need to be flexible and well organised.
  • Sufficient time is required to set up the club room or community venue.
  • Strong, consistent communication with all members of the Junior Football Committee is beneficial.
  • There was increased enthusiasm from participating clubs, due to the involvement of AFL NSW/ACT.
  • The varying values and priorities of the numerous stakeholders involved required open, transparent liaison and communication with diverse sectors and levels of organisational and operational management.


Further Reading

  • Bapat S, Jorm A, Lawrence K. Evaluation of a Mental Health Literacy Training Program for Junior Sporting Clubs. The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists 2009; 17: 475-479.


Merilyn Limbrick
Rural Mental Health Coordinator
Murrumbidgee Local Health District
Phone: 0428 249 719

Helen Sheather
Rural Mental Health Coordinator
Murrumbidgee Local Health District
Phone: 0438 69492

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