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Page last updated at 11:44 GMT, Friday, 17 April 2009 12:44 UK

Blowing the whistle on depression

Clive Norling
Clive Norling made a worldwide name as a referee in the 1980s and 90s

Feted as the great referee of his generation, Clive Norling dropped out of public view about four years ago.

The reason: he was hit by serious depression which left him unable to leave his home or talk to people, becoming isolated and spending time in hospital.

In two programmes on BBC Radio Wales, the former international referee and ex-director of referees for the Welsh Rugby Union, talks candidly and movingly to Scrum V's Phil Steele about his struggle.

Steele himself has also suffered with depression, and Whistling in the Dark will mark depression awareness week

The pair discuss what Norling, aged 57, calls his dark years.

Far from travelling the world as the king of referees, lauded in rugby-playing nations, he found himself unable to leave his Swansea home.

Norling, who refereed a then record 35 Test matches and officiated at all the major rugby stadiums in the world during the 1980s and 90s, tells how he struggled to maintain a relationship with himself let alone anyone else.

He says he is keen to pass on his knowledge and experience of the illness to help others.

"Now that I'm making a recovery I'm in a position to help and reassure others who may be experiencing a depressive episode themselves.

Phil Steele interviews Gavin Henson
Phil Steele is one of Scrum V's roving reporters and presenters

"I'd like to think that in the future I will be instrumental in helping people overcome the fear of depression and hopefully making these programmes is the first step on that road." he said.

Presenter Steele hopes the programmes will go some way towards reducing the considerable stigma still associated with depression.

"Many will remember Clive as a super-confident, indestructible authority figure who could handle the cauldron atmosphere of international rugby matches and deal with the greatest players with absolute ease," Steele said.

"But it's important to realise that the illness is no respecter of reputation or ability, it can happen to anyone - even someone as successful as Clive."

As well examining the symptoms and effects of the illness, Whistling In The Dark also charts how medication, counselling and other therapies, together with family support, aided his recovery.

Clive Norling - Whistling In The Dark. BBC Radio Wales Monday, 20 April 1830 BST.

Part Two: Monday, 27 April at 1830 BST.

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see also
Norling to leave WRU role
15 Jan 03 |  Celtic
Scrum V people - Phil Steele
04 Sep 07 |  Welsh

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