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Emphasising the importance of boys and men looking after their physical and mental health

Helping hand: Bluehope founding director and North Brisbane CIB Detective Sergeant Andrew Ayres with fellow police officer John Munroe. Photo: Joe Higgins

THE biggest killer of Australian men between the age of 15 and 45 was suicide in 2018 – a number which was higher nationwide among police officers, North Brisbane CIB Detective Sergeant Andrew Ayres said. 

It was seeing these numbers rise among his fellow police officers that spurred Det Sgt Ayres on to start his police-centric mental health support organisation Bluehope.

Det Sgt Ayres and members of the Queensland Police Service were hosted at Padua College’s Banyo playing fields for its round of football against Marist College Ashgrove on June 8.

The sports round, dubbed Back to Banyo, was also a time for Padua old boys to return to the playing fields, reconnect with their college and support a charity.

Sgt Ayres said boys from both colleges had been coming up to his stall, where heavy police equipment was on display.

“The reason I brought all this equipment out is because this is stuff I use day to day in my job,” he said.

“And at times it involves some physicality; it’s to replicate if anyone was to put on that method-of-entry backpack, you would see it’s quite heavy to carry around.

“I think that equates to how we’re feeling. 

“If we can unpack it every now and again, and if someone can help us carry it, life’s just a bit easier.”

Padua College sports head Scott Maguire said the fundraising round had been two months in the making.

“Today is to emphasise the importance of boys and men looking after their physical and mental health,” Mr Maguire said. 

“Research suggests we’re not that great at that and our longevity is a lot less than the female counterparts at the moment. 

“It’s a bit of an awareness for the boys, and a celebration of boys and men in our communities. 

“And Ashgrove have been really good at this as well; they’ve committed to the cause and been doing some of their own fundraising – Queensland Police said both Padua and Ashgrove have a strong tradition in the Queensland Police force.”

Sgt Ayres said it was a pleasure to be able to get this information out to a school with such a strong police representation among Padua parents and old boys.

But awareness always came with grave responsibility.

Sgt Ayres said Bluehope had been around five years and had just ticked over 2220 clients.

“So, sadly, in this space, business is good,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of similarities between what we do and these boys in general. 

“And I guess football, soccer or rugby, whichever one, you learn a lot of life lessons doing it tough with your mates and defending that line and celebrating the win. 

“It’s much better to celebrate the win than celebrate the loss – and the losses in this space that I work in, people just never come back from it.”

Padua College rector Peter Elmore said sport was a great vehicle for delivering messages to young men about life.

“That’s the power of sport; it can go from the field into the broader work they do,” he said.

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