By sports editor Russell Bennett When community footy does ultimately return to the field in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, Jason Wells will be playing for a cause much bigger than his own.He’s one of Gippsland footy’s most talented sharpshooters, but beyond the tattoos, flashy boots, and enthusiastic goal celebrations is a man who battles his demons just like so many other blokes.He’s made the courageous decision to step out from under the shadows of stigma to talk about his own mental health battles, as a way of encouraging other young men in the community to do the same.Self-isolation has played a key role in helping combat Covid-19, but it’s had a significant mental health impact on many throughout the community, who’ve had an extra roadblock placed in between them and their friends and family.Along with Wells’ own, personal story, this factor has played a role in encouraging him to put himself out there for the cause.When footy does ultimately get underway once again, for every goal he kicks for Longwarry in the next Ellinbank and District Football League season, he’ll donate money for mental health awareness causes.Through Mindfull Aus CEO and founder Matt Runnalls, he’s organised a number of local businesses and organisations to sponsor him, so he can donate for every goal he kicks.Runnalls’ is a story that’s far from uncommon. In fact, it comes from a situation that’s so eerily similar to that faced by thousands of people across the country. But yet it’s one so often left alone – left unspoken under the guise of a 20-something-year-old’s perceived cloak of invincibility, or the fear or awkwardness of opening up.Since he was 17, he’s battled severe anxiety and depression, which led to several suicide attempts. He’s also lost eight close mates who were facing their own mental health battles and couldn’t find a way through the darkness.So Runnalls refuses to shy away from his battle. He embraces it and hits people right between the eyes with his cold, hard, truth.Wells – a close mate of Runnalls – is an enigmatic figure for some, who don’t really know him well as a person, but feel they do because of his visible presence on the footy field.But beyond the boundary, he’s a private person who’s been dealing with his own private battle.“I guess the whole reason why I’m doing this is that I want to try and encourage other people to speak up,” he said.“I was once a 25, 26-year-old who always chose to keep everything to myself.“But as you get older you meet some great people and I’ve slowly started learning that it’s ok to speak up about things.“I’m at the point now that I think more highly of someone who chooses to share things. I believe it’s being more of a man to show your emotion and speak up.”Wells has experienced his own mental health battles for at least the past four years.“I’ve had countless psych appointments, counseling sessions, and (been on) anti-depressant medications,” he said.“By doing this – by coming out and sharing my story – I hope I can connect with someone in some way, and encourage them that they’re not alone, and it is completely normal to feel this way or ask for help.“You will find more people will help you and continue to check on you if you just take that first step like I did.”And Wells didn’t have to go far in search for inspiration to help him share his story.“The main reason for sharing my story is that I have two beautiful children, and I think the next generation is going to suffer a lot from mental health battles,” he said.“If I can show strength and courage to my children in some way, then that’s my job done.“I wanted to come out and do something through the footy world because I’m well-known as a player, and some people may see me as a smart-arse, arrogant, cocky forward, but this is a side of me I really want everyone to see.”Wells’ own workplace, Active Traffic Management, is already right behind the cause. Any other individuals, businesses or organisations interested in sponsoring Wells for each goal he kicks in his next footy campaign should email firstname.lastname@example.org.To donate to the cause through Wells’ fundraising page, visit: give.everydayhero.com/au/kicking-goals-for-mental-health-1For more information about Mindfull, search ‘Mindfull Aus’ on Facebook.Anyone needing help can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.