SIMON Goodwin knew he had to do something about his mental health when he couldn't finish a routine mid-week media conference, midway through the 2019 season.
By his own admission, the Melbourne coach was struggling with the pressure brought on by his side's sudden tumble from preliminary finalist the previous year to bottom-four battler.
"We hit the 2019 season just not prepared for what the game was going to demand and at that point I knew it was going to be a challenge because we had expectation, we had pressure, we had a supporter base that finally believed in what was possible as a footy club," Goodwin said.
"But I also understood that it was going to be really hard to deliver on that expectation.
"(When) we started to tumble down the ladder and lose games of footy, there was no doubt I started to become more of a recluse. I started to lose the passion for the game."
It all came to a head during a press conference ahead of the Demons' round 10 clash with Greater Western Sydney in May, 2019.
"I was standing there talking and trying to answer a question, and I couldn't get the words out of my mouth," Goodwin recalled.
"At the time I didn’t know what had happened and when we broke it down, it was that I wasn’t coping with the pressure, stress and anxiety that had come over me and, you know, I had to start to really address some of the things that were going on in my life and where I was as an individual."
At the end of that season, the former Adelaide champion went on a journey of self-discovery, working out techniques on how to be the best version of himself and deal with the stress that comes with being an AFL coach.
After improving his mental health during the off-season, Goodwin walked back into the club energised ahead of the 2020 campaign, with his passion for the game ignited and with every intention to help people struggling with mental fatigue, now that he could spot the warning signs.
"(Players) are certainly not immune to the stresses and pressures that come with our industry and being able to help them and share my own personal experience will hopefully build that connection and understanding moving forward," he said.
As part of that drive, Goodwin, 45, is an ambassador for Tackle Your Feelings, a free mental health training program for community AFL coaches, officials and support staff. The program was formed by the AFL Coaches Association, AFL Players’ Association and Zurich Insurance in 2018.
The program is delivered by a local psychologist, and it aims to give coaches the skills to understand, recognise and respond to signs of mental ill-health in not only their players but themselves.
Since its formation, Tackle Your Feelings has been delivered to participants in every Australian state and territory and has been successfully delivered to nearly 5000 coaches nationwide.
"I've got a great network of friends and family and people that understand me… and I certainly understand my mates and my family and my people that are in my little community and I can recognise when they're struggling and just pick up the phone and call them," Goodwin said.
"It's being able to recognise those signs really quickly with people and just to check in and ask how they're going."