Danny Frawley's Death 'A Failure' Of Mental Health Response, Jeff Kennett Says
Jeff Kennett has spoken of his "profound sadness" at the death of friend Danny Frawley, saying it was "a failure of many of us" and calling on more resources and conversations around mental health.
Frawley died on Monday, just a day after his 56th birthday. It has been reported that he may have taken his own life.
The former St Kilda champion and Richmond coach, nicknamed Spud, had been open with his struggle with mental illness in the past. On Tuesday afternoon, his family released a statement saying they were "devastated" but "full of love and pride for a remarkable man".
"The Frawley families are totally shocked and devastated by his passing, but Danny provided us with strength, good humour and unwavering support during his extraordinary life, memories which will be cherished and help us cope with his tragic death," the family said.
"Danny was to all who knew him a caring, loyal, selfless, loving person who would always put others first before himself. Aside from his work in football and media, he worked hard to use his profile to remove the stigma associated with depression and encouraged acceptance and support for those who suffered with mental health issues," the statement continued.
"We are humbled, proud and incredibly touched. His legacy and love of his family will never be dimmed. Forever in our hearts."
Kennett -- who in addition to being president of the Hawthorn AFL club and former chairman of Beyond Blue, was also Frawley's friend -- said on Tuesday that there should have been more help available to him.
"This is a life that's been lost far too early. He's still a young man," Kennett told 10 News First.
"He was the life of the party, but we as know, he's been suffering from depressive illnesses for some time. I just hope that something good can come from it, under the circumstances, and shortly we can again start talking about anxiety, stress, depression in a practical and productive way."
READ MORE: Former Footy Great Danny Frawley Killed
The AFL announced on Tuesday that finals matches this weekend would feature a minute's silence in memory of Frawley, with umpires to wear black armbands.
Kennett, the former premier of Victoria, has long advocated for better access to and funding for mental illness. The founding chairman of mental health advocacy body Beyond Blue, he said Frawley's death highlighted how Australia needed better response mechanisms.
"[Frawley] knew he was having difficulties, but he was positive and he's talked publicly about his issues, which is the first step toward recovery," Kennett said.
"This is in one sense a failure of many of us, that we weren't able to better support him when he needed it."
In recent years, Frawley hosted a radio program, No Man Should Ever Walk Alone, focusing on men’s health, and he often participated in and gave up his time for a range of charities.
Kennett described Frawley as "a larrikin" and "a joker... always happy and upbeat", saying the former St Kilda star had broken the mould as a commentator and AFL personality.
He said the code had made good steps in addressing mental health issues, including appointing wellness officers for the league, and that the "profound sadness" which many in the sport now felt over Frawley's death may be able to be channelled into something positive.
"It's hard to see it at the moment, but we have to have a discussion in such a way that we don't just talk about these sorts of events now when a death has occurred," Kennett said.
"We actually put in place, particularly with young children, the disciplines to help them deal with stress and anxiety as they go through life. It is through education that is going to make a difference, nothing else will really work."
Other members of the wider AFL community also paid tribute to the former defender on Tuesday, with players, coaches, commentators and more sending condolences to his family.
Fox Footy colleagues Jonathan Brown and Paul Roos struggled to keep their emotions in check during a tribute segment and Brown, renowned as one of the AFL's toughest players. At times they could barely speak.
Brown's tears were visible as he spoke of Frawley, especially his ability to bring smiles to the faces of children as they travelled Australia attending AFL clinics.
A statement from Crocmedia, with which Frawley was associated for many years, paid tribute to their "great friend".
"Danny was simply loved. A true Australian character, a brilliant entertainer, a selfless father, husband and friend," spokesman Craig Hutchison said.
If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about anxiety, depression and mental health contact beyond blue on 1300 22 4636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.