“I think the NRL has a major role to play in how we reshape the notions of toxic masculinity and I think it’s about encouraging players to be a lot more in tune with their emotions,” he said.
“Head coaches; they set the culture of the club and with the 16 clubs that I work across, they’re all very different culturally.
“Their attitudes towards mental health and welfare is paramount to creating cultures within the club, that then enables key resources to also be made available. That’s very, very important.”
Ravulo’s comments came after Phoebe Burgess – the ex-wife of former Rabbitohs captain Sam Burgess – recently said the NRL did not do enough to stamp out disrespect towards women.
Ravulo said players are often reluctant to attend the initial sessions after being referred following an investigation by the NRL. But upon completing the mandated period of counselling – usually six sessions – they often come seeking more after seeing how it improves their relationships with others, particularly with their partners.
“I’ve seen this time and time again; their antisocial behaviour actually reduces as they are better communicators with themselves, with other people and their partners also,” he said.
Over his eight years with the game, Ravulo has counselled more than 100 NRL players over eight years and has recently shared his observations in an article published in the international journal Social Work in Mental Health.
In the article, Ravulo reveals how athletes regularly come to him with issues they have never spoken about to another human being before.
For the NRL, Ravulo said the game’s mental health ‘State of Mind’ program is a step in the right direction but more targeted campaigns need to be introduced at a club level to reshape the culture of the game.
“It goes back down to the toxic masculinity and what it means to be a man,” he said.“That needs to be challenged and re-shifted that if we are to be better. If we are proactive in understanding the social and welfare needs of players and have proactive responses at the club level, that can go a long way in decreasing problematic behaviours.”
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