Former England cricketer Andrew Flintoff despises the word ‘stigma’ when discussing mental health issues while drawing reference to his own suffering from depression and mental illness that several cricketers have been inflicted with during or after their careers, BBC sport reported.
Flintoff has suffered from depression and spoke about the subject as part of BBC Radio 5 Live’s Mental Health Week.
“I know it (stigma) is a buzz-word at the minute and people say about ‘breaking down the stigma’,” said the 39-year-old ex-Lancashire player.
“I hear it all the time and for me it’s a word that shouldn’t be used.”
On the international stage, Flintoff played in 79 Tests, 141 one-day internationals and seven Twenty20 internationals between 1998 and 2009.
He also played a key part in two Ashes series wins in 2005 and 2009 as well as being voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2005.
“I’m on medication,” added Flintoff, who takes anti-depressants.
“If I was playing cricket and I had a bad leg, I’d take an anti-inflammatory. If I had a headache, I’d have an aspirin or a paracetamol.
“My head’s no different. If there’s something wrong with me, I’m taking something to help that.
“And they’re not happy pills, I don’t take a pill and I’m seeing unicorns and rainbows – I just start feeling normal after a few weeks.”
Former England cricketers Monty Panesar, Graeme Fowler, Marcus Trescothick, Michael Yardy and Jonathan Trott have suffered with high-profile cases of mental illness and depression during their careers.
Trescothick, a left-handed batsman, had even abandoned tours and returned home due to depression.
Penasar last appeared in a Test match for England in 2013 during the Ashes tour of Australia and admitted to taking treatment for depression and mental illness to cope with anxiety and paranoia that stemmed from a loss of confidence and self-esteem, BBC sport reported last May of the left arm spinner’s situation.
He has still not given up hopes of a comeback into the England Test team after Essex had released him at the end of the 2015 season for what was said to be “off-field issues”.
“The people who were helping me did see a change. They said to me it would it take three to six months to get back to where I need to be.
“You have got to take one step at a time and be patient with the whole process and eventually have the faith that things will get better”, Penasar was quoted as saying by BBC sport.
Panesar at the time was also keen to use his experiences and work as a mental health ambassador for the Professional Cricketers Association (PCA).
“The signs that you can spot in other people in a dressing room is if they are very isolated and don’t engage with the whole team,” he told BBC Sport at the time.
“On away trips, if you are going for team meals, are they just going back to their room and ordering room service?
“It’s really important when you feel down that you engage with other human beings and you speak to other people about it.
“Once a cricketer gets isolated, they are signs that you really should look after that person. As sportspeople, you pride yourself on being mentally strong and ruthless, all the attributes that lead to competitive performance.
“But when you have a weakness in you, you don’t really want to open up to it. You always want to show that you are strong.
“The quicker you open up the quicker you will get the support and the help.”
According to the PCA a number of players are using the programme it offers.
According to a survey it has been reported that nearly all cricketers say they struggle when their careers finish, with 16% experiencing feelings of depression and despair in the first year after retiring.
The survey also found that almost a third of past players said they did not feel in control of their lives two years after playing.
BBC sport quoted PCA assistant chief executive Jason Ratcliffe as saying at the time: “We have a duty to create more resilient and confident people, something which should also ensure better performing cricketers”
It is reported that Graeme Fowler used to shut himself in not knowing what to do to battle mental illness.
“Everything was perfect. I had a wife, children and a job,” Fowler told BBC Radio Tees as part of Mental Health Awareness Week last year. “But in December 2006 my wife told me I needed to go to the doctor.”
Fowler was diagnosed with clinical depression.
“I did not realise I had disconnected from everyone,” Fowler had recalled.
“There was no trigger, it absolutely floored me. But then you start your journey to get back to normal – whatever that is.
“It shut me down. I’d lie on the sofa and stare out of the window. I couldn’t do anything. It was awkward for the children too.”
Fowler had attributed that social media had been an important part of his recovery.
“I used to rant on Twitter. But then people were coming back with messages of support and it has been a massive influence,” he said.
The first two years after retirement is the most difficult time for players, according to the Professional Cricketers Association.
“In sport you get physical injuries, you get the diagnosis, the treatment and the rehabilitation to get you playing again,” Fowler added.
“With mental illness it is the same. There should be no stigma attached. Mental illness does not define you.
“Cricket is a mental game, but how much welfare is there? Well, it’s pretty good, that’s why you hear about it more than any other sport”.
Alongside the England and Wales Cricket Board, the PCA ensures it closely monitors the well-being of it’s members.
BBC sport quoted Jason Ratcliffe, assistant chief executive at the PCA as saying that former England opener Marcus Trescothick was a driving force for cricket leading the way in mental health issues.
“We’ve been very fortunate ever since Marcus came out to speak openly about his illness,” Ratcliffe said. “His high profile encouraged others to talk about it as soon as possible. Cricket is supportive and most of its initiatives come from Marcus”.