When former rugby player Wendell Sailor was going through a rough patch back in 2006, he benefitted from the support of friends to help him through. Only too aware of the warmth and validation that comes from someone taking a moment to ask how you’re going, Wendell is a great fit as an ambassador for R U OK? Day. Wendell shares why he was motivated to become an ambassador and how he hopes his own experience can help others.
How do you stay fit, focused and healthy when training?
Touch footy twice a week and personal training sessions twice a week.
Was there a specific conversation that was a turning point in your life?
As a kid and a young rugby player, I never wanted to talk about my feelings. Sport is a macho world and you keep your problems to yourself and don’t ask for help.
When I was 32, a conversation with rugby league coach Wayne Bennett and my wife changed all that. After I’d made a few stupid decisions, they both told me that I wasn’t acting like myself. I finally felt I could open up because they both clearly wanted to help me. They weren’t judging me at all.
What advice would you give someone who wants to connect with a friend but is unsure of how to start the conversation?
Talk to people in depth and really listen. Don’t just say “how are you?” in passing, but show them you care and then they may open up.
How did you offer support to fellow team mates when travelling and competing internationally?
I don’t hang out with one group. I bounce between everyone so I know the old players and young players are all ok. Some miss family and get homesick more than others.
What are your plans for the future?
To keep enjoying my passions in the media, grassroots footy and charity work.
What motivated you to support R U OK? Day as an ambassador?
I was very good friends with R U OK? Founder Garv Larkin, which is why I first became involved with R U OK? Since then, I have had a few friends who have taken their lives, so my passion for this cause has deepened. I didn’t get a chance to ask them if they were all right. It’s something I’ll regret because I feel like I let them down and I should have let them know I was there for them.
Having experienced that loss, what advice do you have for others?
You can never offer too many times to sit down with a mate and have a chat. As long as you show them you actually want to listen and won’t judge them, they’ll hopefully tell you what’s troubling them. If that day never comes, they’ll still know you’re there for them.
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