ASHES HERO HARMISON PRAISES OPENING UP IN NEW MEMOIR
Chris Brereton 21/06/2017
Legendary England bowler Steve Harmison has revealed he spent most of his playing career clinically depressed - and praised Opening Up for its work in trying to combat mental health issues in young men. Harmison, a double Ashes winner in 2005 and 2009 was well known throughout his career for a tendency to struggle from homesickness but in his new autobiography, Speed Demons, he outlines that he was actually suffering from severe depression and that the homesickness line was a cover for a deeper problem.
After performing brilliantly for England on a tour of West Indies in 2003-04, Harmison should have been feeling at the top of his powers but as he writes, depression respects nobody's status, income, background or profession. He said: "As this great summer of 2004 had gone on, I could feel the brightness being replaced with a cloak of darkness, as if someone was draping thicker and thicker curtains over a window in my head.
"It was the middle of summer and all I could see was grey. It came as a shock. I couldn’t work out what it was, or, more likely, I hardly dared admit it. To do so would make it even more real.
"The horrible truth was those same feelings that had consumed me on trips abroad were overpowering me again, and this time it had nothing to do with being away from home. This was happening right now in the middle of an English summer, and a very successful English summer at that. I was scared.
"When these things happened overseas, that gave them a reason. There was at least an explanation lurking underneath – I had a serious mental health problem about being away from the place and people I loved. I couldn’t apply the same rationale this time. The demons hadn’t bothered to travel, they’d come to get me at home.
"That’s the thing with depression. It doesn’t care. It doesn’t give a shit who you are, what you are, where you are. It’s very open-minded from that point of view, there’s no sense of discrimination.
"If it feels so inclined, it will get you, and that’s that. It doesn’t care if you’re a millionaire, a successful doctor, a nurse, postman, airline pilot, Miss World, Mr Universe, whatever.
"It doesn’t care if you’re the number one bowler in the world. If it decides you’re going to get it, then that’s it. There’s no point telling it you’ve got a great wife, brilliant kids, and a big car in the garage, it just won’t listen. There’s no exact science. "It’s there, you get it, it breaks you, and, if you’re lucky, you get yourself through it and manage to get yourself into a position to carry on and come out the other side."
Harmison has, thankfully, 'come out the other side' and wants others to become more comfortable with discussing their mental health and he had a special word of praise for Opening Up.
He added: "The fact that sportspeople are increasingly talking about mental health can only be a positive thing and there are organisations out there, like Opening Up Cricket, that are doing amazing work in helping those who need support. "There is help out there, whether you’re a professional cricketer, a part-time cricketer or just a member of the public. Don’t be afraid to ask for it – the stigma attached to cricket’s problem keeps improving by the day, and that is something I’m delighted about."
Opening Up Cricket is a not for profitcommunity interest company that promotes mental wellbeing and suicide prevention through cricket.