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Page last updated at 11:04 GMT, Friday, 13 November 2009

Sport's guilty secret

Gabby Logan
By Gabby Logan
BBC Sport presenter

Marcus Trescothick
Trescothick played 76 Tests and 123 one-day internationals for England

I was in South Africa earlier this week for an Inside Sport special ahead of the 2010 Fifa World Cup, but when the news of Robert Enke's death reached us it was a tragic reminder of another programme that I am currently working on.

Over the last month we've been working on an Inside Sport special which deals with how depression has affected so many of our country's top athletes.

Our highly paid sporting icons are not immune and no amount of sporting prowess can overcome an opponent as strong as mental illness.

Whichever sport you delve into there are stories of struggles with depression.

Marcus Trescothick has kissed goodbye to his international cricket career because of anxiety attacks every time he tours. A year before winning Olympic gold, Kelly Holmes had deep depression and even harmed herself as her frustration grew: one cut for every week of training she had missed.

Serena Williams, Ronnie O'Sullivan, Stan Collymore and Neil Lennon have also had their own battles with mental illness. Things got so bad for Frank Bruno that he was sectioned and All Black legend John Kirwan confused his own mindset with that of a murderer.

Depression is not a weakness, it is an illness and there are a number of treatments available

I've been to Italy to talk to Kirwan who has done more than any sportsman to help combat depression, with a hugely successful series of adverts which offer hope, so much so that when they were first shown in New Zealand the helpline switchboard was flooded with 25,000 calls.

Frank Bruno told me about the shame associated with being sectioned and how there was little sympathy a decade ago from the tabloid press.

I've also spoken to Trescothick, who was happy to talk for the first time since his latest relapse on Somerset's tour of India. Returning to the country where he first broke down three years ago was always going to be a challenge and he records his good and bad days in a really insightful video diary for us.

On reflection he sees the trip as a positive one, given the fact he managed a week in India before he had to return home.

The individual tales are deeply engaging, but perhaps one of the most striking things is the number of similarities in all our stories.

Marcus Trescothick

Mind Games - Inside Sport

The symptoms and the suffering are bad enough but admitting the problem can be the hardest thing. Trescothick even considered harming himself to show people just how much turmoil he was in.

If he had physical scars he reasoned that people might understand his inner turmoil. The encouraging theme for all is that they have learned to deal with their depression and come out the other side as stronger and happier people.

Sadly, that was not the case for goalkeeper Robert Enke. He kept his illness from the German public through fear that his adopted daughter might be taken away from him.

Having already lost his two-year-old child Lara from a rare heart malformation this was not something he was prepared to risk. After six years of intense suffering he could see only one way out.

It was particularly poignant for me as my dad was manager of Wales when my brother died suddenly from a heart condition. He toured Japan with Wales just a few weeks later, I am sure he chose to do this because the routine of his sport kept him from the demons of his grief which brought him to a very low place mentally.

German football pays tribute to Enke

Football was the drug he could not live without but it would never repair the void which losing his son had left. Seventeen years ago there was nobody he could turn to within his profession and while working on this show I'd begun to think that would not be the case now, but Enke's death has made me question that.

Our case studies show that there is hope for those who suffer with mental illness. One in four in this country have been affected, so there is certainly no shame in asking for help.

Depression is not a weakness, it is an illness and there are a number of treatments available. I really hope that our programme - which goes out at 2245 GMT on 25 November - will help raise awareness of the subject and confront the stigma too.

The situation is improving and more help is being offered. I'm confident that by listening to a number of sporting role models bravely talking about their own struggles it can offer some hope to those who face the same battles to overcome depression.



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see also
Soon on Inside Sport
02 Dec 09 |  Inside Sport
Suicide keeper battled depression
11 Nov 09 |  Internationals
The pressures of professional play
11 Nov 09 |  Health
Depression took its toll - Enke's widow
11 Nov 09 |  Football
A personal tribute to Robert Enke
11 Nov 09 |  Internationals
Trescothick flies home from India
15 Oct 09 |  Somerset


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