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"Photo: Paul Barkley / Melba Studios "

The NRL has appointed its first game-wide State of Mind Ambassadors to help increase mental health literacy in clubs and communities.

In all, 14 ambassadors have been appointed including Newcastle Knights forward Tariq Sims, following liaison with club career coaches, to support Mental Health – one of the country’s biggest health issues.

NRL Head of Community, Adam Check said the engagement of elite players was critical in bringing a different attitude to the way mental health is addressed within the community.

“Mental illness affects one in two people nationally, with almost every community being touched by its impact in some way,” Check said.

“Rugby League is in a unique position to have a positive impact on mental health by using our profile and players to lead discussion, connect people and help break the silence on what can be a life-threatening matter.”

The State of Mind Ambassadors, who are current NRL squad members, volunteered for the roles because they wanted to make a difference in the area of mental health.

The nomination process took into account; reputation both on and off the field, a desire to contribute to the mental wellness of the community: participation in education in a relevant field and a willingness and capacity to participate in activities outside the club football schedule.

“These ambassadors are players who want to make a difference in the area of health and wellbeing – and many of them have been personally affected by it,” Mr Check said.

All ambassadors will receive Mental Health First Aid training and qualifications, training and support to be able to deliver a mental health program designed by the Black Dog Institute, the opportunity to give back to their community in a meaningful way and become a leader in mental health awareness within their clubs.

The 2015 State of Mind ambassadors are: Dan Hunt (Dragons), Joel Thompson (Dragons), Ben Henry (Warriors), John Palavi (Warriors), Luke Kelly (Eels), Michael Morgan (Cowboys), Dene Halatau (Tigers),  Keith Galloway (Tigers), Ryan Hinchcliff (Storm), Brenton Lawrence (Manly), Josh Starling (Manly), Darius Boyd (Broncos), Sam Tagataese (Sharks), Tariq Sims (Knights).

The NRL is in coalition with Lifeline, Kids Helpline, Headspace and the Black Dog Institute to implement a number of new initiatives being launched in May.