Earlier this year, news broke of Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin’s battle with mental illness. The admission was a stark reminder that mental illness, especially in males and arguably even more so, amongst sports professionals, was still a subject that was considered taboo – painful evidence of a seriously outdated stigma.
So when sports star and Sydney Swans golden child withdrew from the limelight to focus on his own mental wellbeing, it came as a shock to many. Most were, thankfully, supportive but there were still many who sought to perpetuate the social stigma attached to mental illness.
There have been some people in the media that have just said some really incredibly nasty and hurtful things that are just so left of field and so wrong in this day and age,” Jestina Campbell said.
After three months away from football, and out of the public eye, Franklin has spoken to media for the first time about his battle.
“It was a tough time for myself leading into the finals. I was really struggling,” Franklin said.
His decision to leave the sport and focus on his health was one not taken lightly but nonetheless provided the catalyst for Buddy to finally begin his road to recovery.
“I put my hand up and said I needed help and I’m so glad I did it. I did that, I took some time away and it was the best decision I’ve made,” he said.
“The best thing that I’ve done is put my hand up to get the help that I needed. And that’s the biggest thing for anyone to do, to put your hand up and go, ‘yeah I need the help.
“If you are struggling I definitely recommend that you ask for that help, because it will change your life, definitely.”
Returning to training this week, Franklin told reporters he was in a good place and felt ready to get back into it.
Franklin also spoke about how grateful he was to receive the help he needed from friends, family and teammates.
“I’ve got such a great support network around me, in my partner, my family, my friends and the football club have been terrific through this tough time. The support’s been amazing.”
His support network was most beneficial in providing an environment in which Buddy felt comfortable communicating his issues.
Communication, which is a huge issue for many suffering from mental illness was the hardest thing was Franklin to overcome.
“I’m not the best communicator, I do tend to struggle communicating with people. Over these last couple of months it’s been about building those relationships and being able to communicate a little bit better,” he said.
“It was about getting myself right, getting my health back in order, and getting back to being happy. Now I’m hungry to get back out there.”
If you, or anyone you know, is struggling with mental illness of any kind, please call the following numbers.
Lifeline Australia – 13 11 14
Beyond blue – support via telephone 24/7 (just call 1300 22 4636), daily web chat (between 3pm–12am) and email (with a response provided within 24 hours).
DepressionNZ – helpline 0800 111 757
Healthline – (In New Zealand ) 0800 611 116