Sports stars reveal depression battle


SOME of Australia’s biggest sports stars have revealed they battled depression after their careers ended.

Lauren Jackson, Libby Trickett, Barry Hall, and Matthew Mitcham have broken their silence to tell of being plagued by mental health demons for months after retirement.

Jackson and Trickett have said that they can understand how other champions like Grant Hackett and Ben Cousins have gone off the rails.

The revelations come in a two-part special edition of SBS’s Insight program hosted by Jenny Brockie.

media_cameraLauren Jackson, Barry Hall, Libby Trickett, Matthew Mitcham with Jenny Brockie (back). Picture: SBS

Former WNBA and WNBL basketball champion Jackson was forced to retire last year after knee troubles.

“A group of doctors sat me down and said ‘You’re never going to play again,” Jackson said.

“I got out of the room and broke down. I went into my shell, I stayed with my parents, I didn’t leave the house. It felt like I was put out to pasture.”

Hall was also plagued by the black dog when he retired after a 15 year AFL career in 2011.

“There was nothing to get out of bed for anymore,” Hall said. “I didn’t know at the time but it was a form of depression.

“I didn’t answer mates’ phone calls, I was eating terribly, I was drinking heavily. It was a tough time.”

media_cameraLibby Trickett in action. Picture: Craig Wilson

Swimmer Libby Trickett said she also struggled after a career that saw her win gold medals at three Olympics.

“I put on a lot of weight, I had no routine, I stopped wanting to catch up with friends and family,” Trickett said.

“I definitely fell into depression. I continued to eat as though I was training at Olympic level.

“It is very easy to go down those paths (of Hackett and Cousins). With Grant … you can see how destructive mental illness and potential addictions can be not just to the person suffering but to the family unit.”

“I agree,” Jackson said. “It is frightening to watch because you can identify a little bit with it. I know I quite easily could have fallen in that same trap.”

media_cameraBarry Hall during his time at the Sydney Swans. Picture: Supplied

Matthew Mitcham, who won gold in diving at the Beijing Olympics, admits that he turned to drugs and partying to deal with self-esteem issues.

“I put all of my eggs in one basket (thinking) if I’m the best in the world then everyone’s going to love me,” Mitcham said.

“My self-worth ended up being reflected in the judges’ scores. If I got an eight, they liked me. If I got a nine they really liked me. And if I got a ten, I was perfect.

“(After Beijing) I started to believe that nobody liked me, they just liked the medal — that I had no value as a person. That is when I had a relapse of my drug addiction.”

Champion hurdler Jana Pittman admits that she still hasn’t fully accepted her retirement because she never won Olympic gold.

“I can’t let go because that elusive gold medal never happened,” Pittman says.

“I was so desperate to be liked. I saw sport as a platform to be popular

“I’m not sure that I’ve actually coped with it (retirement) yet. I need an off switch. It is the hardest thing I’ve ever dealt with.”

media_cameraNRL champion P J Marsh. Picture: Supplied

Former NRL champion PJ Marsh and AFL footballers Jake Edwards and Justin Clarke are also featured on the program.

“I was eight years old when I decided I was going to play in the NRL,” Marsh said. “When I was asked to join the Parramatta Eels it was a dream come true.

“I never touched a drop of alcohol for ten years. When I ran out onto that field it was amazing.

“Now (after retirement) I don’t go out a lot because what am I going to talk about with my mates?”

Insight, SBS, 8.30pm Tuesday

Originally published as Sports stars reveal depression battle

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