Madhya Pradesh batsman, Aryaman Birla, son of industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla, recently released a statement on Instagram saying that he would be taking an indefinite break from cricket to focus on his mental health. The young player had also been a part of Rajasthan Royals and played two seasons of IPL.
Often a taboo subject, especially in sports where it is mostly about performance, winning and constantly exceeding expectations, discussions around mental health are slowly gaining momentum as more players come out with their stories of battling depression, anxiety and mental health issues.
We take a look at the sports personalities who have opened up about their mental health struggles:
Australian cricketer Glenn Maxwell took a two-month break in October 2019, opting out of the remainder of the T20I series with Sri Lanka, to focus on his mental health. After a two month recuperation period, Maxwell returned to the side and delivered an outstanding performance, earning him a Man of the Match for Melbourne Stars in the Australian Big Bash League. Australia head coach, Justin Langer lauded Maxwell for his courage in admitting that he was struggling from mental health issues. By www.davidmolloyphotography.com from Sydney, Australia - 2018.02.03.22.38.28-Glenn Maxwell-0003, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=67930142 Image credit: In 2006, former England captain, Marcus Trescothick cut short his tour of India, initially claiming that he was suffering from a virus. He later revealed that he had been suffering from anxiety attacks ever since he was 10 years old. While Trescothick returned to country cricket afterwards, his constant battles with his mental health led him to declare an early retirement from international cricket in 2008. Trescothick has documented his struggles in his autobiography, Coming Back to Me. By Ngb at English Wikipedia, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6887001 Image credit: Wrestler-actor, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has been vocal about his battles with depression and his mother's attempted suicide when he was just 15-years-old. Speaking to The Express, Johnson had said that after being evicted from their apartment, his mother walked towards oncoming traffic. Johnson managed to pull her back on to the gravel shoulder of the road, as big trucks and cars swerved to avoid hitting her. This then led to his spiral down with depression, which was further exacerbated as injuries forced him to leave his childhood dream of playing football, and his then-girlfriend walked out on him. Today, however, the actor and his mother are in a much better space. By Matt Brink - IMG_0433, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24654557 Image credit: 30-year-old England wicketkeeper, Sarah Taylor, announced her retirement from international cricket in September 2019, to focus on her mental health. The player, who made her debut for England in 2006, first took a break from cricket in 2016 but returned to the side in 2017 where she played a solid game during the World Cup, which England went on to win. However, her battle with anxiety forced Taylor to prioritise her health and retire from international cricket. Taylor was ICC Women’s Cricketer of the Year thrice and the 2014 Women’s ODI cricketer of the year. By paddynapper - flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7279816 Image credit: The former world no 1 tennis player sent shock waves around the sporting world after he released his autobiography titled Open, documenting his use of the highly addictive drug, crystal meth. In his autobiography, Agassi revealed that his father had pushed him into pursuing tennis at the young age of 13, by enrolling him in a tennis boarding school. In 1997, during a period when he suffered from depression, Agassi turned to drug abuse – a revelation which saw many from the tennis world criticise him and demand that he return the trophies he had won during the period. Agassi also wrote about his wife, former tennis number 1 Steffi Graff was a pillar of support. By Shinya Suzuki from New York, U.S.A. - Andre Agassi, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19844935 Image credit: It was during the Ashes 2013-14 series that the state of South African born English cricketer’s mental health first surfaced. Jonathan Trott was reportedly so tormented about the fact that he had to play a game against Australia, that he thought of ways of avoiding it, including even driving on to a tree on into the River Thames. Trotts played his last game in 2015 against West Indies, where he underperformed, after getting dismissed thrice for a duck. The five-time Olympic gold medallist and retired swimmer, Ian Thorpe first publicly admitted to suffering from mental health problems in 2012. Thorpe, who won four golds as a teenager at the 1998 Commonwealth games in Malaysia, spoke about battling depression and alcohol, contemplating suicide and trying to deal with being a teen swimming prodigy. In 2006, Thorpe had announced his retirement from swimming, citing a lack of motivation to compete. He then made a comeback and tried to qualify for the 2012 Olympics, but did not succeed. In 2014, Thorpe was admitted to a rehabilitation centre after he was found dazed near his parents’ home. Today the retired swimmer, along with former cricketer Shane Watson and psychologist Dr Jacques Dellaire, run Beon, a performance coaching business for executives and teams. By Doha Stadium Plus Qatar from Doha, Qatar - Ian Thorpe, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24503931 Image credit: After losing the 2006 Australian Open title to Daniela Hantuchová in the third round, ace tennis player Serena Williams blamed lack of fitness and a knee injury for keeping her off the court. She, however, later revealed in her autobiography that she had been suffering from depression, along with her injuries. She stayed away from professional tennis for six months and saw a therapist as well, which helped her get back to her game. Williams has also spoken about her struggles with dealing with postpartum depression after the birth of her daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. She revealed that she worried that she was not being a good mom and was not with her daughter enough, though she was with her every day. By si.robi - Williams S. WM16 (20), CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50252210 Image credit: English all-rounder Andrew Flintoff first opened up about his battle with mental health problems in the BBC documentary Hidden Side of Sport. He spoke about how he found himself crying while having a drink with his father on Christmas Eve of 2006 after the side lost the Ashes series. Flintoff revealed that he had been suffering from depression and was in a state of mind where he did not want to get out of bed, let alone meet people. The English team's defeat in the hands of Australia in the 2006/7 tour of Australia, after a successful 2005 Ashes series, pushed Flintoff into alcoholism and depression. Flintoff has been vocal about the need to speak about mental health in cricket, and to avoid calling it a ‘stigma’. By Nic Redhead from Birmingham, UK - What to do with this...?, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30333302 Image credit: After Maxwell admitted to his mental health issues, Indian skipper Virat Kohli came out in support of the Australian cricketer and also shared his experience with mental health struggles. Kohli spoke about going through a phase in his career in 2014 when he did not know what to do, how to say it or whom to communicate to. Speaking at a press conference ahead of India's test against Bangladesh in November 2019, Kohli said, "To be honest, I couldn't have said I am not feeling great mentally and I want to get away from the game because you never know how that's taken.” Kohli also said that mental health should be given great importance and that it should be alright for team members to take a break from the game to recuperate. : By NAPARAZZI - VIRAT KHOLI & DUNCAN FLETCHER, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38063182 Image credit