New Zealand news July 10, 2011

Iain O'Brien admits suffering from depression

ESPNcricinfo staff

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."

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on July 11, 2011, 4:47 GMT

    Come back Iain, you are a great bowler!

  • Dummy4 on July 10, 2011, 19:11 GMT

    I followed Iain's blog on cricinfo & it was extremely witty & quite enjoyble. Sad to hear that he suffers from depression but it's better that he came out into the open with it. I never realized he is 35 now so unfortunately that makes it bit harder for him to make a come back which is a pity.

  • Sam on July 10, 2011, 13:44 GMT

    Obviously from the previous posts Iain has lots of supporters. I am one of those people. I always enjoy the candid nature of Iain's blogs and watching him ply his craft on the field. Good on him for speaking his mind and acknowledging his depression. Not only is this good for the Iain that we all admire, it is good for society as a whole. To acknowledge suffering depression can still attract the stigma to which Brent Wiggy Wigzell referred, as I am sure Iain would have known when he made his statement. Kudos to Mr Iain O'Brien, champion bowler, champion man.

  • Steve on July 10, 2011, 12:21 GMT

    Iain has done a great service to a lot of other cricketers from all over the world by coming out with his condition which I think afflicts not only the few we now know of, but untold many who may be hiding it for fear of being looked down upon and attributed to character weakness. All said and done, cricketers are showmen who needs to go out and perform day in and day out, else their career could be in jeopardy as well as financial future. It is no surprise they suffer from depression frequently. I think it is time to accept the reality and include a sports psychologist in the team support staff with every team. ICC should mandate it.

  • Ahsan on July 10, 2011, 11:22 GMT

    No fast bowler of New Zealand after Sir Richard Hadlee played more than 65 test matches in the past two decades......this has has been a real disappointment for the New Zealand pace bowlers & management that they aren't consistent. Jonathan Millmow, William Watson, Murphy Su'a , Danny Morrison, Simon Doull, Gavin Larson, Heath Davis, Chris Pringle, Dion Nash, Geoff Allot, Daryl Tuffee, Shane Bond, Ian Butler, O' Brien, Andre Adams all played less than 50 test matches for New Zealand after 1985.

  • christy on July 10, 2011, 10:09 GMT

    the black caps need a good quick, come back soon

  • Philip on July 10, 2011, 9:30 GMT

    Good on O'Brien for speaking up. Being on the road would not have been easy for him. And no, it's not all that easy either, to tell people about things like this.

  • Dummy4 on July 10, 2011, 9:14 GMT

    Good on you Iain, its a brave step in going public with depression, its something that while more "socially acceptable" depression and mental illness still carries a huge stigma with some people.

    I have battled depression most of my life and it wasnt till i had a breakdown in nov that i finally got help. That help came medically but most importantly for family and friends.

    Kia Kaha Iain and good luck with your come back with Wellington and hopefully with NZ too. When your playing in Napier i'll be there cheering you on, not to loudly though after all i am a CD supporter

  • MOHAMMAD on July 10, 2011, 8:58 GMT


  • Dummy4 on July 10, 2011, 8:31 GMT

    I loved his blog here on Cricinfo which made me an immense admirer. I was very sad when he stopped blogging and also when he announced his retirement. Really wish he recovers and makes a solid comeback.

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