Andrew Flintoff talks about mental health as part of Mental Health Awareness Week 2017…
Everyone’s got this thing about mental health. What I want to say is people aren’t coming out to try and get sympathy or act like victims. I think people are speaking out to try and make a change.
One of the first things they talk about is identifying and talking about it. This sounds so simple if you’re suffering but it has a massive effect. Almost when you tell someone for the first time, the weight off your shoulders is absolutely massive.
I can understand when people hear people in the public eye like sportspeople, musicians and actors… they look from the outside and think “What have they got to be depressed about? Why are they struggling? They’ve got everything, they’ve got a bit of money, they’ve got great careers.”
But mental health is not a selective illness. It doesn’t just affect people from a certain background, a certain race, a certain class type – it can affect anyone.
The numbers are something like one in four people across the country are affected either directly or indirectly and I am one of those people.
People think when you’re depressed, you’re sad – it isn’t that. I can cope with being sad because I know it’s going to change. When you’re depressed, it’s a strange state of mind, the world just passes by. You can’t get a thought in your head, you feel guilty for something you shouldn’t feel guilty about. You feel guilty for feeling guilty!
It’s like the shutters coming down on you, but everything’s going on around you. You can’t focus, you can’t look people in the eye, you can’t speak – it’s something that’s affecting a lot of people out there.
Weeks like Mental Health Awareness Week, and people speaking out, have got to help.
It’s nice that people are identifying it because back in the day, you were told to ‘get on with it’.
If you look at my career, it was never consistent. I’ve always had massive highs and massive lows. When we won, I celebrated hard but the next day I was left thinking “is that it?”
I never enjoyed it as much as everyone else and I would quite sharply drop down to rock bottom. For me, that’s when you can’t get out of bed and you can’t hold a conversation with anyone.
This still happens now and again – I can be sat there in my house with everything going on around me, even with people round, and I can’t understand what’s going on.
I’ll be desperate to start talking to someone but I’ll move my mouth and nothing comes out.
I am on medication and the way I normalise that is… if I was playing cricket and I had a bad leg, I’d take an anti-inflammatory. If I had a headache, I’d take an aspirin.
If there’s something wrong with me, I’ll go to the doctor. My head is no different.
I think when people describe mental health as having a stigma, it’s implying it’s something that’s difficult to talk about. I have no problem talking about it, it doesn’t define me.
To anyone who is suffering or feeling like something isn’t quite right, just nip it in the bud. Talk about it.