Depressed and unable to talk about it: Mat tells of his father's greatest struggle
By Ben Cubby, Les Kennedy, Ruth Pollard and Nadia Jamal
January 5, 2006
THE PAIN was still raw when Australian rugby player Mat Rogers spoke of the death of his father, Steve. "Dad's sudden, unexpected death has been a tremendous shock to all of us," he said yesterday in a brief, prepared statement at the Cronulla Leagues Club.
Rogers, flanked by his brother, Don, girlfriend, Chloe Maxwell, and the Cronulla club president, Barry Pierce, revealed his father was suffering depression.
The 51-year-old rugby league legend was found dead in a stairwell outside his Cronulla flat on Tuesday. "He was suffering from some depression and, as a person of his stature and a public figure, he found it really hard to talk about it to other people and therefore exacerbated the problem," Mat Rogers said.
Before he took his life with what is believed to have been a cocktail of alcohol and prescription drugs, Steve Rogers wrote three letters - one each to his two sons and daughter. Police gave copies of the notes to the sons but would not say if they gave reasons for the suicide.
However, it is understood that police, who have concluded their investigation and ruled the case "not suspicious", are satisfied Rogers had been suffering from depression for some time.
The family has been drawn together by the tragedy. Don Rogers drove from Byron Bay, where he had been staying, as soon as he heard of his father's death. Steve's daughter, Melanie, is due to arrive from Perth tomorrow. And Rogers's wife, Ingrid, made a brief visit to the couple's flat yesterday. The couple's third wedding anniversary is next month.
The funeral is to be held at 1pm on Saturday at the Shire Christian Centre.
About 2500 people take their lives each year in Australia. For every person who commits suicide, eight attempt it, Suicide Australia says.
The executive director of the mental health group SANE Australia, Barbara Hocking, said mental illness was one of the highest risk factors for suicide.
The director of the Brain and Mind Research Institute at the University of Sydney, Ian Hickie, said people in positions of public significance often found it more difficult to ask for help. "They are scared of being seen as a failure or as being weak. For high-profile sportsmen or politicians, that sense of manliness and control is seen as being so important."
Professor Hickie, who is also a clinical consultant to beyondblue, the national depression initiative, said it was a sad contrast that with physical injury sportsmen sought immediate medical help.
But when they have a mental health problem, he said, they have the opposite expectations. "With mental health problems, we avoid professional help like the plague. We deny we are at risk and often send family and friends away."