Former Elite Athletes Reveal Mental Health Struggles After Retirement

Below is an exceprt from the Huffington Post Australia

By Luke Cooper

A cast of former elite Australian athletes have openly admitted to struggling with mental health issues, addiction and coming to terms with their identities after retiring from the sports in which they became champions.

Appearing on the first instalment of a two-part edition of SBS’ Insight, ex-Sydney Swans captain Barry Hall and former Olympians Lauren Jackson, Libby Trickett, Matthew Mitcham and Jana Pittman all detailed the difficulties they experienced with understanding who they were without sport.

AFL star Barry Hall retired in 2011, ending his career with the Western Bulldogs after a seven-year stint with the Sydney Swans, and said he struggled mentally with the lack of routine that comes with the life of an ex-athlete in retirement.

“Identity is a huge part. You start sport young and it becomes intertwined with who you are for so long. Then overnight it’s gone.”

“I chose to retire, I wanted to retire. I got the feeling that when I went to training every day that I didn’t want to train anymore,” he said.

“I didn’t want to prepare to the best of my ability to perform on the weekend. I think at that stage that’s the time to give up the game. Did I struggle after the sport finished? Absolutely.

“I had two or three months… that I really struggled. I didn’t get out of bed. I didn’t answer mates’ phone calls, I was eating terribly, drinking heavily. A tough time. And look, I didn’t know at that stage it was a form of depression.”

Basketball great Lauren Jackson, who announced her retirement in 2016 after a spate of injuries, said she needed a doctor to tell her directly that her career was over and found it “really difficult” leave the game.

“I was pushed out because of injury, obviously. And I personally wasn’t ready to retire. It was one of those things where I couldn’t run any more and, there was no way I could get back out on to a court,” she said.

Read the rest of the story