James Hird, former coach of the Essendon Bombers, has publicly addressed his overdose on sleeping pills and subsequent psychiatric care for the first time since the January incident.
In a new column for The Herald Sun, Hird writes that “years of continual stress,” culminating in the AFL club’s doping scandal and its aftermath, lead to the 44-year-old’s “breaking point.”
The column serves as a personal recollection of Hird’s mental illness, and as a reminder to others that help is available. He discusses calls to beyondblue as early as 2015, and writes “I am not ashamed to say that I needed the care I received and without it I do not know where I would be. Depression is more than just sadness.
“It is an all-encompassing, debilitating, real sickness that strikes many people.”
The former Premiership-winning player put his illness into perspective, writing that he’d prefer the skull fractures he suffered on the pitch in 2002 to “the feeling of deep clinical depression.”
As for the care he received at the Albert Road Clinic after the overdose, Hird writes “the words “psychiatric facility” conjure up images of crazy people strapped to tables or walking around in drug-induced comas.
“The reality is that the clinic, and others like it, are very different to this and are essential to our community.“It was life-changing for me.”
Hird closes the piece with the admission “I am an extremely lucky man to get a second chance and I am embracing it with everything I have.
“The Essendon theme for this year is about their comeback story. I can’t wait to watch the comeback for many reasons.”
He’s set to provide commentary for the paper about the game – and life – in the coming months, and you can read his first piece in its entirety right here.
If you’re going through a rough time, the best thing you can do is reach out. To speak to someone about mental health, or for 24/7 counselling, call BeyondBlue on 1300 22 4636. If you are in crisis or distress, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. If it is an emergency, call 000.