While sporting culture in Australia has progressed over the last few decades with some codes including Australian rules football changing to reflect general shifts in social attitudes and standards, much is still to be done, Professor Drummond says.
One area that requires a shift in thinking by young men is mental illness – a silent and often deadly problem.
“Mental health is still perceived as a weakness by young males,” Professor Drummond says.
“If we can change the way we see mental health issues within sporting clubs, which can be heightened or intense places of masculinity, then we’re going a long way to change the way in which we see and perceive mental health in broader culture.”
“We (SHAPE) are working with clubs, presidents and boards to specifically identify people or champions of change with a club who can mentor young men around mental health.
Suicide is the leading cause of death for people aged 15-25 and the majority are male. Research also shows that while women are more likely to attempt suicide, men are far more likely to die by suicide.
The statistics for Indigenous males are worse. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Indigenous men have twice the suicide rate of non-Indigenous men.
In his latest research endeavour, Professor Drummond is exploring how masculinised sporting cultures influence young Indigenous men’s attitudes and behaviours towards mental health.
With funding from the Freemasons Centre for Male Health and Wellbeing Research Alliance, he will work with colleague Professor James Smith throughout communities in the Northern Territory to interview local boys and men aged 12-25 about sport, masculinity and their experiences with mental health as well as broader issues associated with growing up as a male.
“We want to find out how sport shapes who they are now, but also how sporting clubs can impact their beliefs, attitudes and behaviours,” Professor Drummond says.
“Our research thus far has identified that sporting clubs for a lot of young males can be their second home. Why wouldn’t we use that captive audience?
“We can’t just let that mentoring occur by chance.”