‘I’ve had my own struggles’: Athletes open up
AS ATHLETE Cara Koenen's public profile grew, so did the number of young girls confiding in her their struggles with bullying, eating disorders and performance pressures.
The Sunshine Coast Lightning foundation player never expected she would become a point-of-call for such important conversations, but has now equipped herself to speak with their family and link fans with professional help services.
Ms Koenen is now an advocate for the Sunshine Coast Mind and Neuroscience Thompson Institute, a world-class facility for mental health and neurological research, teaching, advocacy and clinical services.
She will share her mental health message during the In Conversation lunch at Venue114 this Thursday, to be held on R U OK? Day.
"Being an athlete I have had my own struggles with mental health, anxiety around performance, trying to balance life and working as an athlete," Ms Koenen said.
After three years living on the Sunshine Coast and as she became more of a public figure, Ms Koenen said the large number of young girls who watched netball felt they knew her personally through television and social media.
"My interest was becoming more equipped to deal with those conversations and intervene early enough so we are not getting to a crisis point later in life and hopefully make a difference to the Sunshine Coast as a whole," she said.
Former North Melbourne and Sydney Swans AFL player Wayne Schwass will deliver the keynote speech at Thursday's event.
He is a passionate mental health and suicide prevention advocate, and founded social enterprise PukaUp.
"Normalising the discussion of mental health and emotional wellbeing has never been more important," he said.
The In Conversation lunch will feature conversations with MC Seven Network presenter Jillian Whiting and Thompson Institute advocate, counsellor, author and bodybuilder Leon Stensholm.
The event runs from 11.30am to 2.30pm on Thursday, September 12, at Venue114, Kawana. Tickets are $120, or tables of eight with catering are $110 per person. Visit venue114.com.au or call 5413 1400.
If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline 24-hours a day on 13 11 14.