It was in his final year of high school when budding cricket star Chris Green noticed that one of his mates was taking more and more time off school.
“Throughout high school, and especially in his senior year, he missed a lot of school because of what we were told was glandular fever,” he told Daily Mail Australia.
‘We just accepted it. Guys were missing school because of illness and glandular fever was going around at the time.’
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 the school, he took his own life,” he said.
‘We were shocked by it and our close circle were very shaken and emotional as a result.’
Green, who plays for NSW and with the Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash League, now knows from his own life how important it is to talk to friends to try to understand what might be going on in their lives.
“The whole back story behind me wanting to get involved in mental health started among my friendship group after we lost (our friend),” he said.
Chris Green and his girlfriend Bella Wagschall
Not long after losing his schoolmate to suicide, the father of one of Green’s good friends took his own life.
‘It was completely out of the blue. It was apparently at a happy time in his life when he had his family around him,’ he said.
‘These two cases kick-started our tight circle group to come together and start checking in on each other.’
Green and his friend, who died, attended Knox Grammar on Sydney’s north shore, and he is well aware of the advantages the wealthy private school afforded him.
But an insight into mental health was not one of those benefits.
Chris Green is pictured clocking up the miles to help raise money for RUOK? through Anytime Fitness’ Tread As One campaign
“Privileged families go to that school, get good opportunities through schooling there,” he said.
‘(But) what happened to my friend is not expected, so it’s blurred, especially when it’s young men.’
Who can I call if I feel depressed?
24/7 psychiatric services
If you or someone you know is at immediate risk of injury, call triple zero (000).
Suicide Callback Service 1300 659 467
Lifeline 13 11 14
Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636
Kids Helpline 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 weekends, going through an exciting phase of their lives, they were unaware that their friend was suffering.
“That’s why you were just completely surprised that it wasn’t glandular fever, it was actually depression,” Green said.
‘Losing people close to me through depression was a big wake up call. It drew attention to the fact that this happened to people close to us and close to me.’
After learning a terrible lesson through the loss of their buddy and another buddy’s father to suicide, Green and his friends decided to put systems in place to look out for each other.
‘Something I’m very proud of among my close friends is that we’ve made it kind of non-negotiable that if anyone now and in the future needs a coffee pick-up, golf pick-up, going for a beer or dinner on a regular basis, it’s now a telltale sign that we need to forcefully try to get their attention.’
Green has played professional cricket in Pakistan, India, Guyana, England and Jamaica, so he is often away from his home base in Sydney.
“When I’m back in the country, obviously you want to spend time at home at your place, just relaxing,” he said.
“But if I start missing catch-ups, my friends chase me up and force me out and back into it to make sure I don’t slip away or go through anything.
‘In the same way, we ensure that some of my friends who start to miss events or catch up because they are too busy, that there is a point of contact, face to face, to see that everything is going OK.’
Poignantly, he refers back to his first experience with suicide to explain how important this process is.
‘We don’t just accept that you’re too busy to catch up or go back to having glandular fever and see you when you get better.
Chris Green poses with his winner’s 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 a sea walk in Manly on Sydney’s Northern Beaches
‘Cause that’s what happened in the first place. That’s the biggest telltale sign that we’ve got things in place with the people I’m associated with, he said.
“Through the education I have received from RUOK and Gotcha4Life, it is so normal for people to go through hard times, especially recently through the world landscape and Covid-19,” he said.
‘People go through hard times every day, whether it’s Covid or financial stress, work stress, life stress, relationship stress.
‘People take and accept it in different ways. It is normal for people to feel this way’.
Chris Green (pictured) has played professional cricket in several different countries and when he gets home his mates always check in on him to make sure he’s okay
Green wants his friends and the wider world to know that it’s OK to be vulnerable and open up to someone who could be a sounding board to support them.
“I’m not qualified enough to help deal with that, but I can help push them in the right direction of the services that are qualified,” he said.
“But often the first stage is just being there for the person to help pick them back up and tell them things are going to be OK and there is a way out.
“If they slip through the cracks, they can very easily enter the downward spiral and think there’s no way out.”
To try and help people not slip through, 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 like Green has done with his close friends for years.
Chris Green is pictured taking a walk in Manly on Sydney’s Northern Beaches on a break from playing cricket overseas
This year’s challenge takes place from October 22 to 29 and invites participants to raise money by running as many kilometers as possible by walking, running or even dancing on a treadmill.
Registrations are now open at www.treadasone.com.au
Every year 65,000 Australians attempt to take their own lives, so Tread As One believes there are 65,000 reasons to run, walk or jog.
“An important part of the Anytime Fitness community is taking time to care for each other,” said Rob Hale, general manager of Anytime Fitness.
‘We want to use our vast network to promote the importance of peer-to-peer support for Australians everywhere.
‘We want as many people as possible to get out, connect and move as it’s one of the best things we can do for both our bodies and minds.’
Katherine Newton, CEO of RUOK?, thanked Anytime Fitness for its support.
‘We want members to look out for each other and feel comfortable asking: “Are you okay?” if they notice the signs that someone in their world might be struggling with the ups and downs of life,’ she said.