It was in his senior year of high school when young cricketer Chris Green noticed that one of his friends was increasingly taking time off from school.
“During secondary school, and especially senior year, he missed a lot of school because of what we were told it was mononucleosis,” he told Daily Mail Australia.
‘We just accepted that. Boys missed school due to illness and at that time there was mononucleosis.’
But because Green and his friends “were ignorant, uneducated, and didn’t know,” they didn’t check in.
It turned out that their friend was in the early stages of mental health problems and depression.
“In 2014, three years after we left school, he committed suicide,” he said.
“We were shocked and our closest circle of friends was very upset and emotional about it.”
Green, who plays for NSW and with Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash League, now knows from his own life the importance of talking to friends, trying to understand what is going on in their lives.
“The whole backstory behind me getting involved in mental health started in my friendship group after we lost (our friend),” he said.
Chris Green and his girlfriend Bella Wagschall
Not long after losing his high school friend to suicide, the father of one of Green’s close friends committed suicide.
“It came completely out of the blue. It was apparently in a happy time of his life where he had his family around,’ he said.
“Those two incidents kick-started our close-knit circle group to get together and check in with each other.”
Green and his late friend attended Knox Grammar on Sydney’s north coast, and he is well aware of the benefits the wealthy private school afforded him.
But understanding mental health was not one of those benefits.
Chris Green is pictured doing the miles to raise money for RUOK? through Anytime Fitness’ Tread As One campaign
“Privileged families go to that school, get good opportunities by getting education there,” he said.
“(But) what happened to my friend is not expected, so it’s covered up, especially if it’s young men.”
Who can I call if I feel depressed?
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If you or someone you know is at immediate risk of injury, call triple zero (000).
Suicide Call Service 1300 659 467
Lifeline 13 11 14
Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636
Helpline for children 1800 55 1800
MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78
Open arms 1800 001 046
While he and his friends were having fun at school and on the weekends and going through an exciting phase of their lives, they didn’t realize their partner was suffering.
“That’s why we were completely taken by surprise that it wasn’t mononucleosis, it was depression,” Green said.
“Losing people close to me through depression was a big wake-up call. It drew attention to the fact that this was happening with people close to us and close to me.’
After learning a terrible lesson from the loss of their partner and the father of another partner to suicide, Green and his friends decided to put systems in place to take care of each other.
“Something I’m very proud of among my good friends is that we’ve made it kind of non-negotiable that if someone catches up on coffee now and in the future, catches up with golf, goes out for a beer or dinner on a regular basis, that’s now a telltale sign that we must try to get their attention by force.’
Green has played cricket professionally in Pakistan, India, Guyana, England and Jamaica, so he is often away from his home base in Sydney.
“Obviously when I’m back in the countryside you want to spend time in your house, just relaxing,” he said.
“But when I start to miss overtakes, my friends chase me and force me out and back in to make sure I don’t slip or experience anything.
‘Also, some of my friends who miss events or catch up because they are too busy, we make sure that a contact person is made face to face to see if everything is going well.’
He poignantly refers back to his first experience of suicide to explain the importance of this process.
“We won’t just accept that you’re too busy to catch up or go back to having mononucleosis and we’ll see you when you’re better.
Chris Green poses with his winners medal after winning the Men’s 2022 Hero Caribbean Premier League with his team Jamaica Tallawahs
ARE YOU OK? Ambassador Chris Green is pictured with his dog Humphrey on an ocean walk in Manly on Sydney’s Northern Beaches
“Because that’s what happened in the first place. That’s the biggest telltale sign we have with the people I’m associated with,” he said.
“Because of the education I have received from RUOK and Gotcha4Life, it is so normal for people to go through difficult times, especially lately due to the landscape of the world and Covid-19,” he said.
“People go through tough times every day, be it Covid or financial stress, work stress, life stress, relationship stress.
“People take and accept it in different ways. It’s normal for people to feel this way.’
Chris Green (pictured) has played professional cricket in several countries and when he comes home his friends always check that he is okay
Green wants his friends and the rest of the world to know that it’s okay to be vulnerable and open up to someone who could be a sounding board to support them.
“I’m not qualified enough to handle it, but I can push them in the right direction from the qualified services,” he said.
“But often the first stage is just being there for the person to pick them up again and tell them that everything is going to be okay and that there is a way out.
“If they slip through the cracks, they can very easily get into that downward spiral and think there’s no way out.”
To try and help people not slip through the cracks, Green is asking Australians to join him in the Tread As One challenge, which hopes to raise $300,000 for RUOK? through Anytime Fitness.
ARE YOU OK? encourages people to have meaningful conversations to help others through difficult times in their lives – just as Green has done for years with his close friends.
Chris Green is pictured strolling in Manly on Sydney’s northern beaches during a break from cricket abroad
Taking place this year from October 22 to 29, the challenge invites participants to raise money by racking up as many miles as possible by walking, running or even dancing on a treadmill.
Registrations are now open on www.treadasone.com.au
Every year 65,000 Australians attempt suicide. That’s why Tread As One believes there are 65,000 reasons to run, walk or jog.
“An important part of the Anytime Fitness community is taking the time to take care of each other,” said Rob Hale, Anytime Fitness general manager.
“We want to use our extensive network to promote the importance of peer-to-peer support for Aussies everywhere.
“We want as many people as possible to get out there, be connected and get moving because it’s one of the best things we can do for both our bodies and our minds.”
Katherine Newton, CEO of RUOK?, thanked Anytime Fitness for its support.
“We want members to take care of each other and feel confident by asking, ‘Are you okay?’ if they notice the signs that someone in their world is struggling with the ups and downs of life,” she said.