Move over mental health

Published: Thursday 16th October 2014

Almost half (48.1%) of Australian men have had a mental health issue at some point in their life. Australia’s strong sporting culture provides an avenue to reach a large proportion of adolescent males, who experience disproportionately higher rates of suicide and mental health concerns.

Australian Catholic University (ACU) has joined forces with the Movember Foundation on a multi-million dollar pioneer project, which aims to reduce depression and suicide rates among adolescent male athletes. The foundation raises money and public awareness by encouraging men seek sponsorship for growing moustaches in the month of November.

The foundation raises money and public awareness by encouraging men seek sponsorship for growing moustaches in the month of November.

Led by the University of Wollongong-led in collaboration with ACU, Victoria University and Queensland University of Technology, the research involves more than 5,000 young men from a variety of sporting codes. Leading sports organisations such as the AFL, Cricket Australia, Tennis Australia, Swimming Australia, Basketball Australia and Football Federation Australia, will join mental health providers The Black Dog Institute and the Australian Drug Foundation’s Good Sports Program. 

Professor Sandra Jones is Director of ACU’s Centre for Health and Social Research, which is part of ACU’s new Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research. She will ensure that fundamental messages about male mental health issues are presented effectively in conjunction with the research partners to improve the mental health of Australian males. 

“This is the most comprehensive study of its kind into the role of sport in helping adolescent males identify and overcome mental health issues,” said Professor Jones. 

“My role in the project is to oversee the development and implementation of the sport-based social marketing campaign. Social marketing is an invaluable tool in bringing about cultural and behaviour change, and improving health and social outcomes.”

As a foremost expert in the motivational processes underpinning health behaviours in sport, Associate Professor Chris Lonsdale from ACU’s Institute for Positive Psychology and Education will provide expertise on the application of motivational theory to the intervention components. 

“I will be working alongside Dr Stewart Vella from UOW’s Early Start Research Institute to develop and evaluate an education program that is designed to teach coaches how to foster a positive environment for their players. We are hoping this program will lead to better social and emotional development for these young men,” Professor Lonsdale said. 

ACU is the nation’s leading university for health studies. It has recently launched several new research institutes including the Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research and the Institute for Positive Psychology and Education.

For information about the Movember Foundation visit