Shining the light on mental health support in sports

A NEW Zealand Rugby League official says more mental health support needs to be offered to elite athletes following the death of promising young Kiwi prop Mosese Fotuaika.

The 20-year-old rising star, who was to make his NRL debut with the Wests Tigers this year, was found dead at his Sydney townhouse on Thursday night.

Police said his death was not being treated as suspicious and support has been offered to his family, friends and team mates on both sides of the Tasman.

NZRL high performance general manager Tony Kemp said he worked with hundreds of elite sportspeople, many who were under enormous pressure.

Kemp said mental health was treated as a taboo when it should be talked about openly because often it drove athletes to despair.

He said players like Bulldogs star Ben Barba, last week suspended indefinitely for behavioural breaches, showed how pressure could be too much on young players.

"If you put a diagram together around ego, passion levels and your sporting ability, somewhere around those lines they clash and ... it takes a very good athlete to be able to handle such pressures," Kemp said.

"Some people can't if they've got a chemical imbalance ... it could tip them over the edge.

Kemp said the pressure pushed many athletes to self-medicate, "whether it be at the pokie machines or to a beer bottle".

"I just think if it was more widely spoken about and I suppose received well from the public, then it wouldn't be such an issue," he said.

"The first thing to do is accept it and deliver some support around that.

"I know the NRL are really working hard on that space as we are over here in New Zealand."

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