Honesty Bell

A number of media outlets today reported the imminent retirement of Bath Rugby’s Duncan Bell. And all of the reports hinge on the surprise announcement of his long term battle with depression.  I must admit that I came across the story whilst channel flicking, a bad habit of mine which annoys many though which was beneficial tonight. I spotted the story on Sky Sports News and I’m almost ashamed to admit that my first reaction was almost to roll my eyes – another sportsman comes out as a depressive.  In recent months there has been an increasing list of sports stars who have revealed their battles with depression: Johnny Wilkinson, Dean Windass and Freddie Flintoff have all talked about their own battles. Although their stories are familiar to me and others who have dealt with these issues, there is a part of me which dreads another “Sportsman tells of depression” story because it is starting to become a fashion, a trend and an excuse. Yet the report I saw on Bell was different. It was human. It was personal.  Whilst the written reports have focussed on his private battle, the fact that his employers were unaware of his illness and the courage of his speaking out, the clip I saw (and unfortunately am unable to link to here) showed something a lot more. Bell described his decision to tell his team mates, his visible fear in the dressing room before doing so, the dread of not knowing the reactions of his team mates. He stood up, talked for five or six minutes and having listened was relieved by his teammates’ support.  Again, nothing new. But what was different was his description of what was to come: he recognises depression as an illness, he is not on medication, he recognises the signs of it coming on and understands the need to concentrate on these and act if he is to stay medication free. But most importantly he knows that with retirement ahead, with the loss of routine and the rugby “family”, with the pressures of starting his own business that he is vulnerable to his depression coming back.  Whilst others have opened up about their illness in the past, there have been few honest accounts of what it is  like living with this everyday, here and now. Duncan should be commended on this honesty and let’ hope he keeps on top of this battle with whatever challenges lie ahead.


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