AFL player praised for speaking about personal demons | Pacific Beat

AFL player praised for speaking about personal demons

AFL player praised for speaking about personal demons

Updated 10 July 2013, 10:18 AEST

All Australian football player Harry O'Brien has found widespread support and praise for speaking publically about his battle with depression, suicidal thoughts and what he describes as a long history of sexual abuse.

Collingwood's defender returned to training today after taking last week off to deal with what he describes as "personal demons" and asked the media to give him space to deal with his issues.

Collingwood's coach Nathan Buckley says Harry O'Brien has the club's full support and will return to play when he's ready.

Reporter: Alison Caldwell

Speakers: Harry O'Brien, AFL player, Collingwood Magpies; Nathan Buckley, Coach of Collingwood Magpies; Kate Carnell, CEO, Beyond Blue; Jeff Bond, sports psychologist

ALISON CALDWELL: Returning to training after a week away, Collingwood defender Harry O'Brien surprised everyone when he delivered an extraordinary 90 second statement.

HARRY O'BRIEN: I'm going through quite a tough time at the moment so I just ask you guys for your sensitivity to that and I'm going through issues that I've sort of put in the past for a long time so including long and complicated, very complicated, history of sexual abuse, suicide, depression.

The club's been fantastic in supporting me and protecting me and they've tried to do that but I ask you guys to cooperate and just give me some space. I'm going through some real stuff right here and I have to do it in the public eye and it's tough.

That's the real issue here, you know my demons that I'm starting to face and I have to do that in the public eye. I just rattled off those issues and there's even more, even more that I don't feel comfortable in sharing so please give me the space guys, please.

ALISON CALDWELL: Magpies head coach Nathan Buckley said the pair spoke last night and agreed O'Brien would stand down from the club's leadership group for the rest of the season.

Nathan Buckley says Harry O'Brien will play again when he's ready to.

NATHAN BUCKLEY: He has been through some things that I couldn't imagine. I couldn't imagine what that feels like. But I'm sure that in time with the support of the football club that he has carried these things for a long time, he feels that by sharing them that it shares the load a little bit.

ALISON CALDWELL: Harry O'Brien has been praised for speaking about his issues publicly.

Beyond Blue CEO Kate Carnell says he might inspire others to seek help.

KATE CARNELL: These types of things are difficult for anyone to deal with but if you're having to do it in front of the media very publicly it always makes it more difficult.

On the positive side of that though, by talking about the way he's feeling, the issues that he's facing, he is acting as a role model for a range of other people who may be feeling exactly the same way.

ALISON CALDWELL: Jeff Bond is a sports psychologist who worked with the Australian Institute of Sport for two decades. He says speaking publicly about depression can help an athlete.

JEFF BOND: I think psychologists generally would say that it's good to talk about things that you're dealing with. It's better to get things off your chest than to internalise them too much.

Whether talking about it to the media is a great thing remains to be seen. I think it may work for some and less so for others. I mean, obviously once you expose yourself publicly and you happen to be in the limelight because of your athletic endeavours, you run the risk then that people are going to pester you an awful lot and that maybe exactly the opposite of what you want.

ALISON CALDWELL: Does it necessarily mean the end of somebody's career?

JEFF BOND: No I don't think so. I've known people, and I'm sure there are lots of us who, in sport, who know people who have struggled with some quite serious challenges in their lives who have been able to bounce back and come on well.

The good thing about sport and particularly if we're talking things like AFL football clubs, areas like AFL, those clubs provide a secure platform and a secure framework and a regular daily rhythm if you like or a weekly rhythm to people's lives that sometimes can be quite useful when somebody's going through a period of instability or high-challenge.

I know because I was involved in a club during the Ben Cousins situation, when Ben came over to play in Melbourne, and one of the things I know from talking to Ben that he appreciated was to have the security and the framework that went with club life, being back in, back in the fold.

I think there's no reason why a player who has quite significant life issues to deal with can't get to a point where they get a decent perspective on those things and continue on with their careers and perhaps even exceed, you know, their previous levels of performance.

ALISON CALDWELL: Harry O'Brien won't play this weekend and there's no firm date for his return.

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