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NRL State Of Mind Ambassador Tariq Sims says it’s time to talk about suicide

SUICIDE has taken a huge personal toll on Newcastle Knights enforcer Tariq Sims — and now he is fighting back.

Sims will never forget the devastation that ripped through the North Queensland Cowboys squad following the death of teammate Alex Elisala.

One minute Sims was training alongside the promising 20-year-old hooker, the next minute, he was gone.

I lost one of my mates in North Queensland, Alex Elisala, to this beast that we don’t like to really talk about — suicide,” he said of the 2013 tragedy.

“It impacted on me and the whole squad. It affected a lot of people as well as his family and his loved ones.

“As the NRL family we have lost a lot of young players to this illness and it is something that I have always thought people need help with.”

That episode and his own “dark days” that followed significant injuries has inspired the second rower to become an NRL State of Mind ambassador.

Sims and his sister Ruan — an Australian rugby league representative — will attend The Sunday Telegraph’s free Can We Talk family forum at Panthers Newcastle September 15.

The forum is for parents and anyone concerned about a young person, and will deliver practical advice and help from NRL stars, experts, survivors of mental illness and clinicians.

Tariq Sims, 25, has completed mental health first aid training and become a leader in mental health awareness at the club.

He also encourages people to seek counselling, as he did, when they are feeling particularly low.

“It might be a bit hard to understand if you haven’t been there, but there is some dark times and some pretty lonely days,” Tariq Sims said.

“We are trying to tell people that they are not alone out there and that it is not weakness to say something.

“You shouldn’t be ashamed to ask someone for help.”

Ruan Sims, 33, said her close-knit Fijian family was rocked by the suicide of her mother’s cousin while she was growing up.

She hopes by speaking out about the “taboo” of mental illness that it will encourage others not end up like her relative.

“I’m so sorry that he did not feel that there was any other option,” she said.

“Because my family experienced it so close to home, it makes me more passionate about removing the barriers around mental health in our society.”

Click here to register for the NEWCASTLE Forum on Tuesday, September