Rugby star opens up about his depression

Rugby star opens up about his depression

By Catherine Walker

How refreshing to read on that the Irish rugby ace Alan Quinlan has spoken publicly for the first time about his experience of depression.  He is to talk at a series of regional events on mental health next week and he says that he hit ‘the bottom of the barrel’ and that he had suicidal thoughts.

After England cricketer Mike Yardy returned to the sport last month after depression, Quinlan joins the list of sportsmen who have openly discussed this condition. He spoke out about how he ‘sank into the depths of depression’ after a suspension for eye gouging in 2009.  This suspension resulted in the star missing the British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa.

‘Experiencing depression was a shock and at first I was unwilling to talk about it.  It never occurred to me to open up or tell people about my problems,’ said the rugby star who recently announced his retirement from rugby.

‘Look, I don’t want people to think I’m some kind of victim or basket case.  I’m not.  I’m not someone who’s either up or down the whole time, I’m just someone who has been up and down and sometimes still gets a little blue and finds there’s nothing to be ashamed in that.  I’ve accepted I can’t change what happened with the Lions.  I can’t rewind the button,’ he told The Examiner newspaper before going on a series of speaking engagements as part of Mental Health week.

Quinlan split from his top model wife last year after just two years of marriage and now their two-year-old son is the most important thing in his life.

‘Thankfully, with the support of my GP, friends and family I have come through the experience and am happy to share what I have gone through in the hope that it will help others,’ he said.

He has labelled himself a worrier and it was only after opening up to members of the Munster backroom team and then meeting psychotherapist Dr. Michael Horgan in 2009, that Quinlan admitted to feeling ‘much better for it’.

After therapy he now believes in his ability and repeats to himself on a constant basis prior to a match: ‘I can do this – I’m a good player – I’m a good person’.

The initial problem was not asking others for help and being unwilling to talk about how he felt.  ‘There’s a bit of a stigma attached to men going to the doctor and asking for a bit of help or even opening up to friends and family members.  It’s not the done thing in Ireland.  But if you have a toothache you go to the dentist.  Yet if you’re feeling low down people here tend not to talk about it.  I was, ‘well, I can solve all my own problems and look after myself’. That’s not the way to do it.  You have to reach out and ask for some help.’ He admitted.

We applaud Quinlan for bringing this issue out into the open.  As a male and a sports star his example could help many others faced with feelings of depression.  It really is necessary to talk about it, let it out and to seek appropriate help.  Uncovered magazine wishes him all the very best on his road to recovery and happiness.


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