Is depression illness or injury?

28 Aug 2013

I was so impressed with Clark Carlisle's brave effort to confront the hidden secret of depression amongst footballers.

His honest and heartfelt exposure of his own challenges, along with the obvious stigma in the profession surrounding depression was very emotional to watch.

What struck me though was the idea of somehow the depression arising within football is an illness. I wonder if it might be more helpful to see it as an injury. Physical injury is obvious. One is carted off the pitch. It's acceptable and very much a normal part of the game to expect players to sustain physical injury and to need often very long periods of convalescence.

But is not the often considerable and overbearing mental strain not also an injury?

Why label these unfortunate players with terms like 'Major Depressive Disorder' or 'Clinical Depression'? Why not see it for what it is, often an expected and fairly predictable reaction to devastating circumstances or events? Is not the expectation and demands foisted upon sports stars simply often completely unrealistic? The higher up one climbs the further it is to fall.

Surely, compassion, education, understanding and empathy is called for? Many players may have the resilience to cope with the pressures placed on them but, for others, the depression arising has to be the most lonely isolated place to be. Surely, a depressive episode is worthy of the same empathy and understanding afforded to a ruptured Achilles?

Well done, Clark, for speaking out.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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