West Indies legend Brian Lara has become the latest to open up on the subject of mental health, saying he was on a “downward spiral” in the latter half of his career, and said it was something “we should stand up and pay attention to”.
Lara, one of the game’s greats, who still holds the record for the highest individual score in Test cricket – 400 not out, a figure that was under threat recently from David Warner – has spoken up about the need to be proactive in dealing with mental health, and revealed there was a phase in his career when he was affected too.
“... From the beginning of my international career [in 1990] to about 1995, it was on an upward spiral,” he was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India. “I don't think a lot of people will appreciate (but) from 1995-98, it was on a downward spiral. I felt the pressures of being a double world-record holder. (It) played its part and the West Indies team was on its decline.
"I remember on occasions where I lay in my room feeling the despair. It [mental health issue] is real, it is part of all sport, and it is coming to the fore now with a lot more aggression. Players are at least standing up and saying, 'I need to just remove myself, fight myself and come back again'."
Over the last few months, quite a few players been proactive in speaking out about mental health and related issues. Glenn Maxwell withdrew from Australia’s Twenty20 Internationals against Sri Lanka and has been on an indefinite break from international cricket since. His Victoria teammates Will Pucovski and Nic Maddinson, who also had recently taken breaks to deal with mental health issues only returned to play in the Sheffield Shield earlier this week. India captain Virat Kohli also spoke about the time in 2014 when, during the tour of England, he was going through problems of his own.
Players are at least standing up and saying, 'I need to just remove myself, fight myself and come back again'.
Among the women as well, there have been plenty of cricketers opting to take a break. Rachel Trenaman, the 18-year-old all-rounder, became the latest Australian to take a step back, while in September, England wicketkeeper Sarah Taylor announced her retirement at the age of 30, having gone through struggles with anxiety in recent years.
Lara said the pressure in cricket these days was “mentally draining” and that mental health was “something that we should stand up and pay attention to.”
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