A Gerringong teen is using an appearance on an SBS series to tackle the issues of masculinity and suicide.
Cooper Roberts, who played for the Gerringong Lions and is part of the Illawarra Steelers under 23s team, is one of young people who took part in the documentary series Pandemicland, made by The Feed TV series.
The second episode airs on Tuesday night at 10pm.
The documentary followed the young people around during 2020, the year the COVID pandemic started.
It was also a period where the Kiama and Gerringong area was devastated by a number of young people taking their own lives.
One of those was Cooper's close friend Sam, while another friend on his OzTag team also died.
It caused Cooper to reassess his ideas of masculinity, where bottling things up and not talking is seen as just what a man does.
"It's such a touchy subject and is usually pushed to the back of the agenda when we talk about things," Cooper said.
"Because I was so closely involved with the matter, not only for me personally but for the town as a whole it was important to start talking about it.
"It only takes one person like me to go on the show and talk about something like this. Everyone's going to watch and everyone's going to realise how open I was and that it is something that needs to be talked about."
With the loss of two friends coming on top of a pandemic year that took away his chance to fully experience his graduation from Year 12, Cooper could have reconsidered his participation in the documentary and shied away.
However, he decided to grab the opportunity to tell his story.
"It ended up being a really good experience and I'm so grateful that I did take it with both hands," Cooper said.
He was chosen to appear in the series after SBS had asked the Kiama High School principal and Cooper's local footy team if they knew of anyone who could take part.
Cooper was pulled out of class one day and asked if he wanted to take part, and he was keen.
But it did take him a while to get used to being followed around by a camera crew.
"At the start it was really strange," he said.
"There was all the little techniques, like you don't actually look at the camera when you're talking and you have to repeat the question because otherwise it sounds silly if you just answer it.
"In the end I got pretty used to it. I got more and more confident speaking in front of the camera as well, which really allowed me to open up."
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