Sports stars' depression 'rampant'
November 15, 2006
Beyondblue chairman Jeff Kennett says depression among Australia's elite sportspeople is "rampant" and believes English cricketer Marcus Trescothick's decision to return home is "absolutely right". "I've spoken to a lot of sportspeople, including women, and it is rampant," he told smh.com.au after an emotion-packed press conference with Australian golfers Stuart Appleby and Steven Bowditch on the eve of the Australian Open.
"And you can understand why. It's not only the normal things that cause the illness ... but the expectations on you are absolutely enormous," he said.
"And often people don't reach the levels they want to and that just forces them to break."
Mr Kennett, who is also the president of the Hawthorn Football Club, said up to 15 per cent of AFL players experienced depression - a figure he thinks exists in other sport codes.
He said Trescothick's decision to return home ahead of the Ashes series was a smart one.
"Not only is it the right thing to do medically, it's dangerous to be out there playing a sport when your mind for a moment, just a second, could be somewhere else."
He said elite athletes were among the 1 million Australians who suffer from depression each year, 200,000 of whom experience serious levels of the illness.
Bowditch revealed at the press conference how he contemplated ending his life as depression took hold of him over the past two years.
He said he finally sought help after going through 13 sleepless nights in a row.
"The one for me was the sleepless nights and everything seemed so small and dark and then I realised it was time to get help," the 23-year-old said.
He said that, by seeking help, a huge weight had been lifted off his shoulders.
Appleby announced he would donate $2000 for every birdie he scores during three upcoming Australian golf events, including the Australian Open, to beyondblue and the Stuart Appleby Junior Golf Foundation.
He is also making an initial $50,000 donation to the two organisations, which is to be split evenly.
He said a recent phone call to his mother, who lives on a farm in a rural community, made him realise how the drought was impacting on people's mental health, particularly men, who are loathe to admit it.
"If me scoring some birdies helps make people more aware of depression, then I'm more than happy to help," he said.
Mr Kennett said the courage of Bowditch to come forward and talk about his illness, and the generosity of Appleby, were a great benefit to the national depression initiative.
"That is why I think it is very, very encouraging that, at an Australian Open, for a moment of time - and it's only a moment of time - we are talking about something that, among the players and among the crowd watching, is rampant."
He said depression was manageable and curable and that those who experienced it should have no shame in seeking help from their local doctor or counsellor.
Home Page Print Media