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Newcastle Knights’ forward Tariq Sims, his sister Ruan Sims and former Knight Adam MacDougall teamed up to deliver the NRL State of Mind Program in partnership with Headspace at local schools in the Hunter on Tuesday.

The trio visited Callaghan Colleges in Waratah and Wallsend and San Clemente High School in Mayfield to spread the message of positive wellbeing and mental health to hundreds of students. 

For the past two years, the NRL Community has been using its voice, in consultation with leading health experts, to make a difference to a big issue that impacts the game and wider community- mental illness.

“It’s something that I’m passionate about,” Tariq said following one of the school visits.

“If we can just help change the way one person thinks, I think we’ve gone in the right direction.”

Since taking up the role of an NRL State of Mind ambassador, Tariq has opened up about his own mental health experiences with the hope of encouraging others to also feel comfortable speaking about what is often considered a touchy subject. 

“The State of Mind is something that I’m pretty close to and it’s very motivational for me,” he said.

“Ru (Ruan) is in the same boat as me and is very passionate about the State of Mind and helping to get the word out there and getting rid of the stigma that if you speak, you’re a bit of a sook. 

“If we only help one person, that’s a win for us.”

Ruan, who has represented Australia in women’s rugby league and union, was pleased with the positive feedback and interaction students had with the State of Mind program.

“It’s really pleasing to see the amount of information that’s already out there and how educated these children are…that’s really positive moving forward,” Ruan said. 

What she hopes to get across to young people is that mental health issues can affect all people, regardless of their standing in the community. 

“Hopefully it makes them a little more comfortable discussing their mental health,” she said.

It’s something Adam MacDougall, who played 158 games in the red and blue, also hopes participants take away from the educational State of Mind program.

“It’s obviously a big issue for kids…mental health affects one in two people,” MacDougall said.

“It’s good to spread the word and let kids know they’re not alone and if they need help there’s always someone to speak to.

“It’s great to see Tariq out here and obviously a big macho guy like him talking about his own experience suffering depression and how he overcome it.

“It’s very brave and very personal and will certainly have a big impact on kids who are suffering depression and allow them to come to terms with it and to speak to someone aswell.”

For more information about the NRL’s State of Mind Program, click here.