Former New Zealand and Wellington cricketer Iain O'Brien has spoken of how mental illness robbed him of much of the enjoyment of his playing career.
O'Brien had a successful career on the pitch, taking 73 wickets in 22 tests. But off the park, anxiety and depression made it hard for him to relate to his fellow players. "The social side of cricket, it drove me nuts, it fried my brain, I couldn't handle it," he told the Cricinfo website. "I would get into a changing room environment and I didn't really know how to behave."
O'Brien, 36, said there was a lack of support for players, though the situation had improved a lot in recent years.
The Cricket Players' Association has programmes in place to help members dealing with mental health problems.
Several high-profile cricketers have spoken recently about battling mental illness, including former test player Lou Vincent, and former England opener Marcus Trescothick.
Cricket seemed to draw "crazies, for lack of a better word", O'Brien said. "I believe it's the people drawn to the sport, and it's the sport itself, and neither helps. It's an analytical game, stats-based, lots of time to contemplate failures, very little time to contemplate success."
O'Brien said he recognised the symptoms of depression years ago. He sought help in 2011, which included counselling and medication.
People should not fear medication. "It's the same as taking anti-inflammatories and [other] medication, it's part of a recovery," he said. "One of the best things about getting the help is I've learned to be a better person. I can now be me."
Cricket Players' Association chief executive Heath Mills said players with problems now had access to professional help. "We have come a long way, but personally I think we need to do a lot more."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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