Depression and cricket’s relationship is one that has come up time and time again. Many well-known cricketers have hit headlines in recent years including Marcus Trescothick, Mike Yardy, Jonathan Trott, Iain O’Brien and Graeme Fowler to name a few. Although the statistics are not that prominent, they suggest a much higher suicide rating than the population of UK males. The relationship between cricket and mental health has been picked up by the media, and the Professional Cricketers Association (PCA) have launched initiatives to help.
The question that must be asked is why Cricket? What is it about cricket that leaves strong and healthy athletes at the top of their game, with poor mental health?
Firstly, it is important to note how much time cricketers have to spend away from home. In some cases, they spend more of their time sitting in hotel rooms than actually playing. The amount of time they have travelling alone provides a perfect opportunity to self-analyse.
Unlike football and many other sports, cricket is more of an individualistic sport which means criticism is directed at them alone and not as a team. It puts a lot of pressure on cricketers and can lead to negative feelings. Their performance is closely monitored and can become a huge issue for players as they tend to blame themselves.
Former New Zealand International Iain O’Brien was one of the first professional players to speak out about his mental health problems.
He stated, “I also thought, if I can speak about this and just get one person to recognize that they are sick and then go seek help, then I’ve done good. I know of about six people who have sought help because of me speaking out and I think that’s pretty cool.”
O’Brien continues to speak openly about his struggle and worked with the PCA on some of their initiatives. He has said in the past that he has played with many professionals that had a number of mental illnesses ranging from OCD to Aspergers.
Following the success of the PCA’s helpline, they launched ‘Mind Matters’, an Addictive Behaviour Programme featuring a range of tutorials. They aim to educate players on how to recognise anxiety and depression as well as how to access help and manage their problems whether it is related to substance abuse, gambling or alcohol.
To learn more about the PCA’s initiatives click here.
However, each and every sport can cause pressure and stress to professional players that can lead to mental health problems just like cricket. Every career has pressures that can lead to mental illness which is why it is so important to focus on the individual and their circumstances. There is no concrete evidence that cricket causes depression but it can be said that the nature of the game and how individuals deal with the pressure can lead to heightened stress and anxiety.