The AFL has had its share of mental illness in recent years. Hawthorn and North Melbourne tall forward Nathan Thompson was something of a pioneer in this topic when in 2004 he announced, whilst at the height of his physical powers as an AFL player, that he had been suffering from clinical depression.
This was a big story at the time, and Thompson rode the media wave with the look of a man on a crusade. He told us all he was not mucking about: he was serious and we’d all better take him seriously. This is an example of how sport, and the people involved in sport, can have a positive impact on society.
A decade on from Thompson’s brave announcement, with the mental health stories of Wayne Schwass, Brendan Fevola, Ben Cousins and others all having played themselves out in public view, the community’s understanding of mental illness has greatly improved.