As an NRL player, Greg Inglis faced up to the biggest challenges the game had to throw at him. But that was nothing compared to the reality that is facing him in Australia’s regional and rural communities today.
Inglis faced his own demons after his playing career ended, seeking help after his second stint in rehab for alcohol problems and depression. He was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder and today has the medication, therapy and support he needs.
Australia’s mental health battles are well documented, but Inglis is now working to help the forgotten Australians, the children and adults who feel there is no help and no hope.
Inglis holds regular clinics around the country in rural and regional areas, welcoming young people to speak to him privately about their struggles so he can help them
The Goanna Academy was formed in 2020 by Inglis and aims to end the stigma surrounding mental health in Australia, especially for Indigenous Australians, men, and young people.
The NRL legend’s personal story aims to inspire, educate, and influence Australians so they can prevent, reduce and prevent mental health issues.
Inglis admits the stories he hears in those regional communities are ‘heartbreaking’ and require him to take a few hours each day for meditative sleep.
Often he will need to seek out his own professional help to process the horrific stories he hears from Aussie battlers in towns like Orange in New South Wales and Toowoomba in Queensland.
‘I then need to seek help too. It happens regularly,’ Inglis admitted to The Daily Telegraph.
‘But you can’t work in this space without working on yourself.
From the highest highs of winning an NRL premiership with the South Sydney Rabbitohs…
…to the lowest lows including retirement, addiction, depression and eventually a diagnosis
His work is making an enormous difference, though. Inglis said at least six people have told him he saved their lives. The youngest was just 13.
Inglis does not want to betray the confidence of the young people that are seeking his help, but the issues they face are horrific. Sexual abuse and self-harm are alarmingly common issues.
That is why it is so draining for him, but for his work to be effective, it has to be Greg Inglis the mental health survivor, not Greg Inglis the footballer.
‘Because kids especially, they can smell bulls**t a mile away,’ he said.
‘I have to go there as somebody who not only dealt with what they have, but still deals with it now. I have to be genuine about my own experiences because it’s only once I get personal with them that they can trust me.
‘Because only with trust will they open up. And sometimes that might only be an extra sentence. Or even an extra word.
‘But I need to get right down to whatever they’re holding back – and it does take a toll on me.’
Inglis is also working to garner corporate support to fund the Goanna Academy. He’s pictured with executives from the BESIX Watpac construction company
The Goanna Academy was first launched in Inglis’ home town of Macksville, where the NRL champion declined to answer any questions about his playing days – only on the mental health goals the academy has.
‘I was 15 when I last wore the Macksville jersey, but I have never forgotten where I came from. It’s something I have always spoken about and I always like to give back to the community,’ Inglis told NRL.com.au at the time.
‘Goanna Academy is what I am focusing on now. That is what I am passionate about.
‘I just want to get out there and share my story about the struggles that I went through, what I faced and what I got diagnosed with.
‘By me sharing what I went through I can give them tips about how to handle themselves if certain things come up – to go and seek help and to talk about it.’
NRL chief executive officer Andrew Abdo has praised the academy with a testimonial on their website.
‘Greg Inglis should be commended for using his profile to establish the Goanna Academy, his work off the field to deliver important messages to improve the mental health and wellbeing of others will have a lifelong impact on so many,’ he said
The academy also received a significant boost in April with sporting performance brand ASICS signing on as exclusive sportswear sponsor and gold partner for 2022.
‘ASICS was founded on the positive power of sport and movement, that it can uplift us individually and as a community. We are delighted to partner with the Goanna Academy to bring our philosophy to life and to improve the mental health outcomes of Australians,’ Managing Director of ASICS Oceania Mark Brunton said.
Help is available for all Australians
You can reach out to the Goanna Academy at email@example.com or anonymously on their website.
If you are experiencing depression, anxiety or suicidal thoughts, there is help available.
Beyond Blue aims to increase awareness of depression and anxiety and reduce stigma. Call 1300 22 4636, 24 hours/7 days a week, chat online or email.
Lifeline provides 24-hour crisis counselling, support groups and suicide prevention services. Call 13 11 14, text on 0477 13 11 14 (12pm to midnight AEST) or chat online.
Kids Helpline is Australia’s only free 24/7 confidential and private counselling service specifically for children and young people aged 5 – 25. Call 1800 55 1800.