Rugby league is considered one of the toughest sports in the world. Players take the field every week for 25 weeks and spend 80 minutes physically destroying each other. Gruesome injuries occur, such as a compound fracture in the finger, but players dig deep and play on. More often than not we find ourselves commending the players for their strength on the field however more recently the rugby league community has greater reason to applaud the attitude of players off the field. Rugby league players are not immune to mental illness. Countless players who take the field week after week are struggling internally from the hidden illness that affects so many people worldwide. Despite their internal battles however, across the rugby league community there are many players who find the strength and bravery to speak out about their mental health struggles. They use the platform that the game has provided them as an opportunity to shine light on the darkness that is mental illness.
We live in a society that is far more understanding and aware of mental illness than in the past however there is still so much more awareness that needs to be raised. Trent Merrin of the Penrith Panthers in aiming to do just that and thus the Move Out of Your Head initiative was born. MOOYH for short, is a fun and entertaining way to bring the community together to combat mental health but more importantly, raise awareness and educate the youth on a matter that so seriously affects them. One in five Australians will experience mental illness or a problem linked to mental health, but only one in four young people receive professional help or advice. Unfortunately, many of these young sufferers do not understand the severity of the matter or how to get help for themselves. In hopes of encouraging and helping young adults, Trent created the Move Out of Your Head initiative so everyone can dance. Dance, believe it or not, is incredibly helpful in getting you out of your head and creating a less negative state of mind but also creating better mental and physical health.
The overall concept of the initiative is quite simple really. MOOYH is a challenge to keep the community dancing, sending a positive message via social media and raising awareness. All you have to do is record yourself getting out of your head through dance and challenge your friend(s) to do the same to keep the domino affect alive. Once you are finished dancing, upload your moves onto social media making sure to tag @TrentMerrin, @moveoutofyourhead and use the hashtag #moveoutofyourhead. If dancing isn't for you or you choose to decline the challenge it is encouraged to make a donation to Kids Helpline to support the amazing work they do. Kids Helpline is Australia's only free, private and confidential 24/7 phone and online counselling service for young people aged between 5 and 25. Over 26 years they have responded to more than 7.5 million contacts and are proving to play a critical role in helping and protecting young Australians no matter what day or time. Kids Helpline and Trent Merrin are working together to help you have fun, send positivity and move out of your head.
Over the last week I had the immense pleasure of discussing the initiative with Trent, the platform in which he has found himself living on and his hopes and dreams for Move Out of Your Head.
Firstly, I just want to congratulate you on the amazing work already done with the Move Out Of Your Head initiative. What made you decide to start the campaign?
Thank you! The Move Out Of Your Head initiative is something I have been working on in the background since June last year, so it’s been a good 12 months in the making and I am so excited to see it finally coming to life.
I am so passionate about the mental health area and it’s something I have always been interested in and exposed to through my childhood and adult life, both inside and outside of my career. It’s been something that has affected me personally, as well as my loved ones and I have seen a lot of it within our game and in the general community as well.
It’s something that so many of us experience but keep locked up inside, which in the long run can end up making matters worse. I started conducting some research and I found out so much that I didn’t even know. I wanted to use my position in the community to spread this information as well as show how common and widespread mental health issues are, but in a fun way. That’s how Move Out Of Your Head and the #moveoutofyourhead dance challenge was born.
We all know and love that you are a free spirited character in the NRL but why did you choose dance for this movement?
I wanted to bring some light to mental health in a fun and interactive way and also try to incorporate the use of social media in a positive way. I’m sure you have seen the videos of my post game celebration dances in the sheds and a few other dances here and there, so that’s what inspired me to incorporate dance into the movement.
Dancing is so easy, and everyone can do it, no matter where you are and what your age, and there’s no right or wrong way to do it. It’s the perfect way to move energy from our mind into your body. Even if you prefer not to dance on social media, hopefully you can get a little laugh out of a dance in the privacy of your own home. Otherwise you can check out some of my incredible dance moves in my MOOYH Intro Video on social media and get a laugh out of that as well.
What are your dreams and future aspirations for the movement?
Where would I begin! I have so much planned. I definitely want to stick to the awareness, prevention and management of mental health through a few different targets of youth, teens and adults. There are plenty of mental health organisations around, so I want to focus on the fun and different ways to approach it.
Without giving too much away too soon, my vision board is quickly filling up with ideas, inspiration and aspirations, so keep your eyes peeled but it’s definitely something I want to focus on post career as well.
This is an amazing opportunity that you have taken to use your platform to make a difference in the world. Are you ever overwhelmed by potential pressure to be a role model?
Being a role model and exposed to the public eyes is 100% something that we as professional athletes need to be aware of and keep in the back of our minds. We need to be aware that we are role models for the fans and the community, but in saying that, I personally don’t see it as pressure. Instead I use it as a catalyst to be the best me I can be every day and ensure I am leading by example for others, as well as myself.
Unfortunately, as much as I’d like to, I can’t take the hate out of the world, so I make it my personal mission to spread kindness and love to try and balance out any negativity that might be out there. Spreading this type of love not only might help someone you come across, but it helps you as a person just as much. And if I can hopefully inspire at least one person to follow in those same footsteps, then that’s the type of role model I am determined to be.
During the difficult and trying times in the NRL, what keeps you grounded and level headed?
It’s definitely a game of ups and downs but as with everyone and their own careers and lives, it has its good and bad times. Personally, I like to surround myself with people who continue to make me want to improve myself and have similar characteristics as mine.
I love to spend time with my loved ones, they always manage to keep me grounded, but it’s just as important to have alone time to be able to focus on yourself. I find meditation, yoga, music and the beach to be very therapeutic for me personally, but I also really appreciate the opportunity to sit down and have a coffee with friends to unwind.
What advice would you offer to anyone who is possibly going through a difficult time at the moment?
A few things which I think all connect with each other. The difficult times won’t last, that everything you go through is a lesson to learn and a chance to become a better person, and to never be afraid to ask for or get help.
I think so many people are afraid that if they speak about their emotions or a difficult time they might be having they might be considered as weak. Just like a cold or flu, you need to seek professional assistance to heal, the same applies here. Don’t be afraid to chat to someone, whether it be a friend, family member or a professional. Just opening up to someone can do you the world of good.
Something a little more light hearted – what is your go to dance song? What will bring you to the dance floor no matter what?
I’m a big music person. So, if I’m completely honest I don’t have just one song in particular – I love anything with a good beat and, chances are, you’ll probably find me on the dance floor even if there’s no music. I’m quite talented in the dancing arena, so I prefer not to limit my brilliance.
Dance. It’s something so simple and an art that so many people may take for granted. The power that a jiggle in the feet or shake of the arms can bring is unmeasurable. Such too, is the difference Trent is making in the community through the initiative. Rugby league is a tough sport. The hits endured and injuries overcome are nothing to be ignored however, the internal battles suffered should also never ever be ignored. So join the movement, have a laugh and #moveoutofyourhead.
Top 8, Bottom 8 is here to help. If you or a loved one need to reach out and talk with Kids Helpline any time for any reason 24/7 please do so on 1800 55 1800. If you would like to learn more about Trent Merrin and the MOOYH initiative, click here . Any donations are whole heartedly appreciated