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Schwass talks about dark days -

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(generated from captions) tomorrow's case, ABC is dealing with a new investigation at the same

centre over another child that went

missing last month. #6 Natasha Johnson with that report. Over 14 years playing for Sydney and the Kangaroos in the AFL, Wayne Schwass built up an enviable reputation as a talented footballer and a fierce competitor. But for most of that time his toughest battle was not restricted to the football field.

Day in, day out he was dogged by the curse of depression. Going public about his struggle today, Schwass joined a pantheon of eminent Australian sporting identities

who have acknowledged the impact of depression on their lives. Mary Gearin reports.

COMMENTATOR: Schwass from behind.

I was a 25-year-old male playing

I was a 25-year-old male playing the greatest game in the world. Look

greatest game in the world. Look at this for goal. Vice-captain to the

greatest player in the modern era.

Schwass, great form last year.

Wayne Schwass has just about kicked

this. Will it straighten up? Yes.

Weak people got depression. That's

what I thought. I don't think that

now. Public confessions are rarely

as voluntary or perhaps surprising

as this one. Wayne Schwass showed

few external signs of his trauma as

the talented wingman notched up 282

senior games at the Kangaroos then

Sydney Swans, best and fairest

awards at Sydney clubs, a

premiership and a place in an

all-Australian team. But it was six

years before he elbowed aside

footy's macho culture and began to

outrun his most dog

outrun his most dogged opponent -

dogged depression. I actually

thought it was better dying than

living, unfortunately. I'm not

living, unfortunately. I'm not proud to say I had those thoughts, but I

certainly did and I had them many

times. I took a lot of solace in

alcohol. I did that because from

alcohol. I did that because from the moment I woke up to the moment I

went to sleep I was fighting this

battle inside my head of just this

self-defeating negative unhappy

person inside my head and I kept

telling myself that. It's

telling myself that. It's incredibly courageous, you know. He basically

was very, very depressed during his

career. He was smart enough to seek

help. He received help. He wasable

to continue playing whilst getting

help. Schwass has bared his soul to

launch the Sunrise Foundation to

prevent depression through

prevent depression through education programs specifically in elite

athletes. That might surprise those

who still can't see why the heights

of sporting greatness could lead to

the depths of despair, despite a

growing list of testimonials.

Oh, yeah. I've - I think I've said

it before, I've thought of ending

it before, I've thought of ending my own life. All of the events that

went bang, bang, bang got me to a

point I couldn't see any light or

how I would get out of this.

To be thrust into the limelight and

saying, "OK, grow up now, this is

what you have to be like, you have

to win and do this" , it was

incredibly hard and I can see now I

hated the person I was. The tragic

extreme of sport's invisible injury

toll was revealed against recently

with the death of Rugby League

champion Steve Rogers, apparently a

case of suicide. We know that

depression will affect one out of

five Australians at some time in

their life and that by no means

excludes athletes. We mow that

during the time of active

competition, that is athletes aged

18 to 30, for example, like

18 to 30, for example, like everyone else is susceptible to a range of

illnesses, like bipolar disorder,

even occasional cases of

schizophrenia. Professor Leon

Piterman is condition veening a

conference in Melbourne next week

conference in Melbourne next week to help understand these paradox.

help understand these paradox. Sport promotes and requires mental health,

but sometimes sport might cripple

it. The perks of the sportsman's

it. The perks of the sportsman's job might become his prison. In

particular, the elite ones. The

particular, the elite ones. The ones that get to the top, they're in a

fishbowl now and they're on the

television and there's 100 angles

and that does put immense pressure

on them and they are not skilled

on them and they are not skilled and trained to cope with those things.

Dr Harry Unglick was the person

Schwass turned to as mortgage

norths' club doctor for 20 years.

Now the AFL's Chief Medical Officer

he'll speak at next week's

conference. Dr Unglick has seen

young men broken by the pressures

young men broken by the pressures of the big league. A survey two years

ago said 8% of AFL players had

sought help for depression. One of

the things at an AFL level is this

macho image and if you do speak

about depression it may be a sign

about depression it may be a sign of weakness and it shouldn't be. One

weakness and it shouldn't be. One of the ways of combatting depression

the ways of combatting depression or anxiety is to come out and talk

about it and then you can get help

for it. What experts don't know is

whether sports people who go

whether sports people who go through mental trauma are already

susceptible or whether the sporting

context makes traumas of its own.

But sport might present its own

solution to the problem - an

initiative to target present and

future athletes will be announced

future athletes will be announced at next week's conference. We want to

use sport as the portal to work

use sport as the portal to work with athletes to use role models to tell

them about the importance of mental

health, how to seek help if they

need it. If we address it at the

elite level we start to debunk the

thinking that flawed people get

depressed. High-profile people are

subject to it today. It

subject to it today. It reverberates very strongly in the community.

Wayne Schwass concedes it would

Wayne Schwass concedes it would have been better if he'd admitted his

condition while still playing, but

now he hopes he can be at least as

influential as a mental health

advocate as he ever was as a sportsman. Mary Gearin with that report. And that's it for tonight. Join us tomorrow for a special program reflecting on the Howard years and, for that matter, Labor's decade in the wilderness.