Jasmin Pedretti

Jasmin Pedretti

Journalist

Reading The Play on the Mental Health Crisis

by Ponderings Radio

Reading the Play on the Mental Health Crisis

‘Read the Play’ is a mental health awareness and wellbeing program, specifically aimed at kids between the ages of 14 and 16. 

The program is presented at football and netball clubs and fuses fun with education. Games and jigsaw puzzles create a conversation and a safe space where kids can ask important questions.

We sat down with David Langley, chairman of ‘Read the Play’, to talk about the growing mental health crisis, how he created a movement, and what he has learnt along the way.

What is ‘Read the Play’s’ back-story?

As the community director of the Kempe Group, I wanted to change the Kempe sponsorship model and one way of doing this was to create a youth program and through the process ‘Read the Play’ was born, initially teaching kids about alcohol and illicit drugs and it was delivered by parents after an 8 training session with the first program running in 2007.

After running this model for several years, I wasn’t happy with the numbers and parents weren’t comfortable answering questions about topics surrounding mental health. Words like depression, anxiety and schizophrenia were popping up.

 

A new model/program was developed around a games night that would deliver the questions easier. We changed the philosophy to be more about mental health, and professional clinicians were engaged to deliver the program. 

 

The next year we doubled our numbers. We went from around 650 to over a thousand, and then gradually went up to 4,500 kids overall, across Victoria.

 

How successful are the results?

Deakin University is doing a two-year review program. They’ve already done one year. I can’t tell you the results but they indicate we’re making a significant difference. After the second year’s complete, we will have documented proof/evidence that we are making a difference in the communities we work in, which will allow us to present to government for funding. Even though we have great sponsors we require ongoing funding to ensure the stability and viability of the program long-term.

What makes people in business want to support something like this?

It’s for kids. Also, mental health touches 1 in 4 people; it’s everywhere we look. It’s not a hard sell. Some people don’t get it, and I can’t understand that. Mental health issues have touched my family network, maybe that’s the key to getting it. 

I get blown away at times. I get emotional because people are so good, I get angry, because of the people that would rather give money to a club to buy beer which fuels the problems ‘Read the Play’ aims to prevent.

What are the specific components you have learnt about creating a movement like this?

I didn’t realize when I started ‘Read the Play’, how big the problem of mental health was. I think that has staggered me but also been my drive. I’ve realized, we could be helping a lot more kids. So, passion is one component. 

The other is having a great group of dedicated staff and volunteers on board. 

Growth is hard to contain, so we’ve had to change our structure and work out how we can do better.

How do you envision the future of ‘Read the Play’?

‘We’re developing the program for under 17-year-olds, which will focus more on youth suicide and safe partying/driving etc. 

People in Melbourne are interested in what we’re doing and want to run it in their areas. 

Ultimately, my vision is to get to as many places possible across Australia and continue to develop a very professional program. 

I’m chuffed when I look back at the number of stories where we have helped kids. We can’t stop. We need to keep the momentum going.

There were moments during this conversation, where Mr Langley’s eyes would well up. Youth suicide rates continue to sky-rocket, and too many kids suffer from depression or anxiety. Mr Langley and his ‘Read the Play’ team are on a mission to change this. The program’s success is proof that an idea, once put into action, can become a movement that creates phenomenal change. 

 To be a part of the ‘Read the Play’ journey click the link. 

KIDS HELPLINE – 1800 55 1800
LIFELINE – 13 11 14
HEADSPACE – 1800 650 890

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