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When Darius Boyd hung up the phone after booking into a mental health clinic, he cried in relief.

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As a professional rugby league player, Darius Boyd is an expert at training his body to be the ultimate weapon on the field.

It’s all about discipline, drive and making sure he keeps himself in peak condition so he can perform to the best of his ability.

As the 31-year-old told Mamamia, “the more you put in, the better you’re going to be.”

So when he checked himself in for a three week rehab course at a mental health clinic, he realised he needed to transfer that very same mantra to his mental state.

He needed to train it.

NRL Rd 7 - Broncos v Sharks
Darius Boyd is used to training his body. But he didn't know he had to put as much work into his mind. Image: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images.

When Darius realised this it all clicked into place. He knew how to train, he just hadn't realised he'd needed to put as much work into his mental health as his physical health.

"It's one of the easiest things to practice in a way, if you know something that helps you and your mental health it's easy to just continue doing that because you know it's going to be beneficial," he said.

Darius wasn't always so positive, in fact he spent much of his late teens and 20s feeling pretty negative about the world.

"Everything I looked at was in a negative way and I had a lot of anger, resentment, hurt and sadness," he told Mamamia.

When he looks back, he can see that he isolated himself from family and friends, found it hard to trust anyone, and had closed himself off from the world.

"It was a really negative cycle that I couldn't break, and it wasn't until I hit rock bottom that I realised I was going down a path I couldn't continue," said Darius.

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Rock bottom came after a culmination of things.

Darius's turbulent childhood which included years of being disconnected from his mum, a form slump at the Knights, his mate and colleague Alex McKinnon's catastrophic spinal injury, the stress of organising his grandma's retirement village and finances for which he was power of attorney for and then the final straw - his wife Kayla walking out, telling him she couldn't do it anymore (they have since reunited).

Darius-and-wife
Darius Boyd hit rock bottom when his wife walked out. Image: Facebook/Darius Boyd.

"It was pretty easy to break in the end because the last three years were so challenging and it was getting to the point where it was just too much, so it was kind of like a release when I did ask for help and checked into the clinic," said Darius.

When he hopped off the phone after organising where and when and what time he'd be checking into his temporary home, Darius cried. "I think I was really relieved," he said.

"I didn't really know what I was going into but I was really open to changing and bettering myself," he added.

Pulling up at the clinic, Darius sat outside in his car for about 15 minutes feeling a bit scared and a bit daunted, but the nurse who greeted him when he walked in the door made him feel welcome and understood and he's still in contact with her now.

Darius knows his mental health isn't something that's going to be a "fix and forget".

"We all have mental health it's just that some of ours is really good and some of ours is really poor. It's just about keeping on top of it. With your physical health you go for a walk or do some training or eat healthy - it's the same with your mental health. You have to keep working on it."

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For Darius he had three goals when he walked out of rehab. Reconnecting with his mum and closing that chapter, growing his support network and friendships so he always had someone to lean on and talk to, and giving back to the community.

Darius Boyd
Four years ago Darius checked himself into rehab. Now he wants to help others struggling with their mental health. Image: Matt King/Getty

He's been able to fulfil that last one at work by becoming an NRL State of Mind advocate to encourage fans, players and colleagues alike to look out for their mates in an effort to encourage conversation and reduce the stigma around mental health.

Darius used to consider himself a shy person, but he's a pretty open book nowadays and is more than willing to share his struggles with mental health and depression if it'll make a difference to someone else.

"It's crazy to think how many people it does affect," he told Mamamia. "It's why it's so important to talk. Everyone goes through tough times, but it's how you bounce back - and who you surround yourself with."

Darius also learnt the hard way that you have to want to get help before you'll really make any progress.

He knows speaking openly about this kind of stuff is still pretty new for the world of sport and in rugby league circles especially, but he's determined to be a part of breaking down those barriers not only for the age-grades hot on his heels, but for the fans in the crowd that'll look up to them.

NRL

The NRL is encouraging all Australians not to stay on the sideline when it comes to mental health. Looking out for your mates is important on or off the field. And just like you wouldn’t let a friend take on an entire team by themselves, it’s important that we support them when it comes to their mental health. The NRL State of Mind program supports the Rugby League community with positive mental health through face-to-face education sessions, and was designed to increase mental health literacy, reduce the stigma around mental illness, start positive conversations, and enable connections across communities. Find out more at www.nrl.com/stateofmind

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