Even if you aren't a cricket fan, the chances are you've read about or seen news footage recently concerning the England no.3 batsmen Jonathan Trott flying home after the first Ashes test with a "stress-related illness". A similar thing happened to the hugely talented opening batsmen Marcus Trescothick a few years back, and it came out over time that he had been battling depression and felt it necessary to retire (far too early for somebody so talented and comparatively young) from international cricket. You watch sport yet you don't really give much thought to the lives that these sportsmen lead away from the sporting arena. Surely a professional sportsman doesn't get depression, because what is there to get depressed about ? You're living a dream, getting paid to play sport - but it isn't like that. Depression isn't "simply" being depressed. As most people know, depression is a mental illness that can strike anybody and it sure as hell doesn't discriminate in who it affects.
I don't suffer from depression and I hope I never do. Like many of you I am sure, I get down from time to time, and as much as I might sometimes say "I'm feeling depressed or down", in reality this is nothing to do with actually suffering from depression, anxiety/panic attacks or some form of mental illness. I find it desperately sad that a professional sportsman has had to leave an Ashes tour, which for an England cricketer is the highlight of a career, and yet again it sadly proves that this cruel illness known as depression can hit anybody at any time. We discriminate because we are human beings, yet mental illness knows no boundaries. Rich or poor, high profile or "regular" person, it matters not.
I have heard some people say over the years that they don't see what the fuss is about when somebody has depression, and they should just snap out of it and get on with life. Mental health issues seem to be beset with ignorance. As I said, I have never had depression, but I have been around it, I know people who have had it or are going through it, and sadly I know a few people who have committed suicide because of their mental illness - and that is what it is. It's an illness that sufferers can't simply give themselves a shake and get out of it, yet there still seems to be various stigmas to depression and other associated mental illnesses. You can't help but feel for a person like Jonathan Trott who has obviously been trying to deal with an illness of the brain while also trying to perform as a professional sportsman and all the pressure that comes with it - one can only hope that he gets to spend some proper time with his family and get the right treatment. I hope he comes back to international cricket, but sport obviously pales into insignificance in a situation like this.
You know my aversion to the whole celebrity culture, but I take my hat off big time to somebody like Stephen Fry who has been so open about his own depression. I can't imagine what it is like to have depression, but I would think that it is a very hard thing to try and articulate what is going on in your head when your life must seem so insurmountable, and sadly a percentage of sufferers seem to see no way out and commit suicide. I don't know how to rationalise the act of taking your own life, but the way I see it from knowing a few people who have done this is to believe that they would never have committed suicide if they had been mentally well enough to realise what there is to live for and the family they are leaving behind. Depression is a cruel and desperately unfair illness and I must surmise that being in the depths of it can at times cause a person to act as if they were not themself. Your heart has to bleed for the people left behind who must continue to ask questions to which there doesn't seem to be answers. The brain is a fragile thing yet we seem to understand so comparatively little about it.
It's a bit like fish stocks if you bear with me here - out of sight, out of mind. You can see a leg wound and the bandage used to heal it, but you can't see a mentally damaged brain and plasters or painkillers don't work. It's easy to shy away from such a tricky subject and not discuss it with somebody you might know who is going through their own personal hell, but I would implore any of you reading this to reach out to anybody you might be aware of who is suffering from some kind of mental illness and simply talk to them. You can't magically make them better by doing so, but nobody suffering with depression should have to feel ashamed of what afflicts them because non-sufferers hide away from it.
I have lived in close proximity to a relatively short period of mental illness, and at times I wanted to scream at the sky and ask why this perfectly "normal" person was dealt this hand seemingly out of the blue, and yes, I admit, sometimes I couldn't help but feel that they should just get a handle on it and drag themselves back to "normality" - which is in fact partly frustration on my part at not being able to understand that the sufferer is going through. Thankfully this person is fine now, but it didn't half ram home to me how vital it is not to brush these things under the carpet and pretend they don't exist. You get hurt, you get it sorted, so what's the difference with getting a damaged brain mended ? Depression is categorically not a sign of weakness because it doesn't discriminate in who it affects and when. I cannot help but admire Jonathan Trott for being able to play the hothouse, pressure cooker Ashes cricket he already has done in his career whilst obviously managing some kind of mental illness. Please come back Trotty, England needs you - but only if you feel up to it......................