Snowboarder Belle Brockhoff1

Deakin’s elite athlete students open up about their mental health struggles to help others

August 7, 2020

Sport and Recreation

Sport has always been at the heart of Deakin, and is one of our greatest strengths.

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As part of our focus on mental health and wellbeing during Mind Matters week (Monday 3–Friday 7 August), we are proud to report three students from Deakin’s Elite Athlete Program have been named as Lifeline Community Custodians for 2020–21.

In partnership with the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), Lifeline Australia has chosen 22 current and former elite athletes as Lifeline Community Custodians to talk about their experiences with mental health issues to encourage other young people to seek help if they need it.

Here we share with you excerpts from the personal stories of our three Deakin elite athletes representing the Lifeline Community Custodian program. They are passionate athletes and students who hope that by talking about their struggles, they can prevent others in our community with mental health issues from suffering in silence. 

Content warning: Please note this content includes sensitive topics and may be triggering. We suggest you make your own assessment on the suitability of this content for you. If you require assistance, we encourage you to seek support from Deakin’s Counselling and Psychological Support (CAPS) service or externally by calling Lifeline (13 11 14). 

Alexandra Viney

‘The night before my year 12 graduation, I was dragged unconscious from the upside-down wreckage of a high-speed car accident … the next six years of my life were consumed by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression, and on two separate occasions I attempted to take my own life.’

Alexandra Viney

Alexandra Viney is a rowing para athlete and is studying a Master of Business (Sport Management) at Deakin. She is a formidable young rower and her outstanding achievements were recognised at the 2019 Deakin Sport Awards. As part of her role as a Lifeline Community Custodian, Alexandra talks about how she became a para athlete following a life-changing accident and injuries at 18 years of age that threatened to cut her fledgling rowing career short.

‘If speaking out about my experiences can help to break the cycle for someone else, then everything I have been through is worth it,’ said Alexandra. ‘I hope to support the AIS and Lifeline to break down communication barriers and reduce the stigma around mental health.’ Read more of Alexandra’s story.

Belle Brockhoff

‘I suffered depression during my later teen years and a bit of anxiety as well … I also experienced mental and physical bullying when I was a lot younger, which probably planted the seed a little bit when I was trying to figure out my own identity.’

Belle Brockhoff

Snowboarder Belle Brockhoff is studying a Bachelor of Commerce at Deakin. Following an amazing comeback season, Belle was named a finalist for the prestigious Athlete of the Year honour and ultimately received the Outstanding Achievement Award at the recent Snow Australia Awards. Despite her success, Belle (also pictured in action above) wants to tell her story about struggling to fit in to help others who may be facing similar feelings.

‘By sharing my story, I hope people feel less like they have to hold everything in, keep a secret, or feel ashamed. They need to know that there are lots of helpful resources out there, and lots of athletes and other people who are going through similar things.’ Read more of Belle’s story.

Kristy Harris

‘Mental illness – including depression, anxiety and bipolar is something that runs in my family … My personal experience began in my early teens experiencing depression and social anxiety, which led to binge drinking.’

Kristy HarrisGeelong boxer Kristy Harris is studying a Bachelor of Business (Sport Management) at Deakin. Despite being a force to be reckoned with in the ring, Kristy said it wasn’t until she discovered her love for sport that she began to proactively work on improving her wellbeing. Kristy hopes that her role will allow her to bring hope to other young people who may be struggling with their mental health.

‘All I want to do is help and that’s why this position stood out to me so much,’ said Kristy upon being announced as a Lifeline Community Custodian. Read more of Kristy’s story.

Do you need support?

Please reach out for help if you need support for your mental health or would like to talk to someone. 

  • Deakin’s Counselling and Psychological Support (CAPS) service can provide you with confidential support via real-time telehealth appointments.
  • You can also seek confidential help externally by calling Lifeline (13 11 14) at any time – 24 hours per day, 7 days per week on any day of the year. 

Find out more about how you can access a range of support services, both here at Deakin and in the community

If you are an elite athlete student at Deakin, we understand you may have changed and complex circumstances this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic that may potentially impact your studies. If you’ve got any questions about how the Elite Athlete Program could help you, please contact the Elite Sports Coordinator, Jack Duke, at eliteathlete@deakin.edu.au.


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