Iain O'Brien admits suffering from depression
Iain O'Brien, the New Zealand seamer, has joined a growing list of cricketers who have admitted to suffering from depression. O'Brien chose his 35th birthday to tell the Sunday Star Times how depression has plagued him his entire career. He said he had hidden the illness, despite being aware of it, until earlier this year, when listening to a BBC radio programme hosted by former England captain Michael Vaughan, dealing with the topic of depression in cricket, convinced him to seek help.
"Listening to that show was when I realised that it was probably time to go and get it sorted," he said. "How have I got through to now without doing anything about it? It's different for everyone. But I think I bullied myself into doing things and trying to live 'normally'."
O'Brien, who has also maintained a popular cricket blog through most of his career, said he first suspected he suffered from depression when he was in university but chose not to tell his team-mates about it, when he later experienced lows while playing for New Zealand. The 2007 tour of South Africa, when he had been recalled to the national side after two years, O'Brien said, was a particularly bad time.
"I'd just got back into the Test team after two-and-a-half years out of the mix, but for the first two weeks of our tour to South Africa, I didn't really leave my room. I was just too scared. I went and played cricket, went to training and did a bit of shopping. But most nights I'd eat by myself and order room service.
"The rest of the time I'd either hang out in my room or sit by the pool. Wrapped up in it is how you value and see yourself. I didn't feel as though the guys I was on tour with were equals by any means. I didn't want to bother them so I looked after myself. That's still how I deal with it sometimes even now. If I'm having a few bad days, I'll try to get away from people. I can still go and play cricket and have good days on the park, but the rest of it can be quite hard work.
"I probably should have piped up about it earlier on, just around the team and that sort of thing. But it's not easy an easy thing to talk about."
Earlier this year, England's Michael Yardy pulled out of the World Cup because of depression, once again bringing the issue into focus. O'Brien said he was not sure whether it was the nature of cricket that made players depressed or whether it was just that the sport attracted people who were prone to having psychological issues.
"Go back to the very start and you have to ask the question: is it cricket that acts as a catalyst for mental illnesses or is it the people who are drawn to it? I'm serious here because the sport does kick your arse very quickly. You can have a great day and then be a nobody the next. If you went around the dressing room, you could pick someone who was suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, you could pick someone with Asperger's Syndrome and then there's those affected by depression. There would be a small minority who would actually be quite normal."
O'Brien's career has meandered since he retired from international cricket in 2009. He moved to England to live with his British wife, and played for Middlesex in 2010. However, in 2011 he was denied classification as a domestic player in England, causing him to lose his county contract. In June, he decided to move back to Wellington to play domestic cricket in New Zealand, and is hoping to make a comeback to the national team.
He is determined not to let his issues with depression get in the way of his future, and wants to deal with the problem before it gets worse. "A couple of cricketers over here, once they'd finished playing county cricket, didn't know what to do with themselves so they committed suicide. I don't want to be one of those statistics. I don't want this to fester away either. I've never been quite that low but I've certainly been on the way to being that low. I don't want to deal with that. I don't want my wife and my daughter to deal with me like that."