Warning: This story contains a candid discussion of mental illness and suicide that some readers may find confrontational.
Looking in from the outside, Moises Henriques seemed to have it all.
We especially idolize our sports heroes and cricketers, hold them to high standards and admire their stoicism on the field.
But beyond the accolades he made captain of the NSW Blues and Sydney, Henriques was dealing with his own private struggles.
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He chose to keep one private because leaders at the time should not be weak in his eyes.
I think maybe at that stage I was captaining both NSW and the Sixers and in my head I was like, Well, you should be leading teams here and if someone found out you were fighting, you shouldn’t feel like that, so i kept it all under raps, he said in the second episode of Behind the uniform, a new podcast supported by Movember, a men’s health charity, that looks further into mental health experiences.
I feel like what I’ve been through and what I’ve learned has made me a 20 times better leader than what I was when I ignored my mental health because I thought I needed to be a leader.
I would have been a shocking person to play under compared to the captain that I am now and in the teams that I am not captain, the leader I can be in the empathy and understanding that I can show my teammates who I probably hadn’t at that stage.
Henriques revealed that his mental health began to deteriorate in his mid to late twenties.
My parents divorced when I was 11 or 12, and I think my dad went below the mental health line after and never really got out, he said.
I think when I really became aware that I was really struggling, I was probably in my mid-20s when I woke up in the morning with no energy, didn’t want to exercise, didn’t want to do things.
Talent and hard work had led Henriques to make a career out of playing cricket.
But it did not bring him any joy.
Instead, he found himself sometimes plagued by fear.
Suddenly, I had a fear of not doing well at cricket, where I didn’t really feel it was my late teens and early twenties, he said.
Then I suddenly got performance anxiety and I started to worry about the future.
It got very gloomy, I lost a lot of my personality and I felt like I wasn’t socializing with people.
He went to a psychologist every fortnight, which gave him the impression he was doing enough to address the problem.
On reflection, he says this was far from the reality of the help he really needed.
I saw a psychologist once every two weeks, he said.
I now look back and know what it took to actually change my wellbeing. It lasted much longer than an hour every two weeks.
I spent 60 hours a week on my physical health, but only 1 hour on my mental health.
It probably got to a point where my psychologist actually referred me to a psychiatrist because she thought she couldn’t do much more for me.
That would have been just before I took a few weeks off from cricket. I had let things get so out of hand.
Sometimes I was exercising and feeling myself struggling, and I had to kick myself into gear and turn my frown upside down, physically fake.
Henriques says he never really thought of suicide, but told of a time when, on his way home from a game, he thought about what would happen if he crashed his car.
I don’t think I really saw suicide as an option, he said.
There was a time when I was driving home from a game of cricket when I went deep through the process to think about the consequences if I crashed the car at that point.
When I drove home that day, I remember crying in tears. It was after the first day of a game, we had spent all day in the field and had three more days.
Funnily enough, I now love the thought of three more days. My change in perspective is crazy.
But I remember in the car thinking, how can I avoid the next three days, what are my options? That was one of my options.
Henriques shared his story in the hope that it will help others who are also struggling with their mental health to feel more confident about speaking up.
The chance to reveal his journey has only made him stronger.
I’ve never spoken to anyone who had a bad experience sharing their vulnerabilities, he said.
If you or someone you know needs help with crisis or suicide prevention, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or click here.
You can subscribe to Behind The Uniform NOW wherever you get your podcasts.