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Hird opens up on depression: "Everyone has a breaking point and I reached mine"

Football

James Hird reached breaking point when he took an overdose of sleeping pills, saying he was in deep clinical depression.

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The former Essendon star AFL player and coach has commented publicly for the first time since he was taken to hospital in January.

Hird spent five weeks in a mental health facility and he said it was life-changing.

“Everyone has a breaking point and I reached mine after years of continual stress,” he said in his first column for the Herald Sun.

“I am not ashamed to say that I needed the care I received and, without it, I do not know where I would be. Depression is more than just sadness.”

Hird’s overdose came after his central involvement over the previous five years in the Essendon supplements debacle.

I could not dig myself out of this hole

The Essendon great said he would rather go through the horrific facial injuries he suffered during a 2002 match than the deep clinical depression again.

“My first call to beyondblue in 2015 was an admission I needed help but it took until January 4, 2017, when I took too many sleeping tablets, to truly accept that I could not dig myself out of this hole,” he said.

“Certainly, it (his time in the facility) was no holiday camp but provided a supportive, welcoming, safe and caring environment and allowed me to receive the treatment I needed.”

Hird paid tribute to his wife Tania, calling her the strongest person he had seen or witnessed.

“Her unconditional, all-encompassing love, positivity, strength and ability to keep rising to the challenges that have been put in front of our family has been extraordinary,” he said.

“Over the past four years, I have been short-tempered, distant, hard to live with, rude at times and ill.

“Tania, my children, my extended family and friends have loved, supported and cared for me when I didn’t deserve their support.

“It is the unconditional love and care alongside the professional attention that has given me a second chance at life. I am an extremely lucky man.”

Essendon are clear of the supplements saga and this season welcome back 10 players who had missed last year because of doping bans.

“The Essendon theme for this year is about their comeback story. I can’t wait to watch the comeback for many reasons,” he said.

“But mostly to see the smile on the Essendon supporters’ faces … bring on 2017 and the year of the comeback.”

Bombers prepare for redemption

There are no prizes for guessing what was running through Dyson Heppell’s head.

The AFL captain’s media session was done early yesterday afternoon and everyone had either left the MCG or was packing up.

But a solitary figure, instantly recognisable in his playing gear and sporting that shock of blond hair, walked around the middle of the ground for a couple of minutes.

The next time the new Essendon captain is out there, it will be the round-one AFL blockbuster on Saturday week, against their fierce rivals Hawthorn.

After a year out because of his doping suspension, Heppell will officially be an AFL player again.

New captain Dyson Heppell and Essendon's 2017 leadership group at training today. Photo: Tracey Nearmy / AAP

New captain Dyson Heppell and Essendon’s 2017 leadership group at training. Photo: Tracey Nearmy / AAP

An Essendon official looked out at Heppell walking around the MCG, smiled and said quietly: “Dyson is pumped”.

Heppell is among 10 Essendon players returning from their doping bans, which stem from the club’s 2011-12 supplements debacle.

“I can’t wait to get back out here – it’s a great vibe at the club at the moment and a great amount of optimism as well,” Heppell had said earlier.

Heppell was asked if this is the most excited he has felt in his AFL career.

“It’s a fair call – coming back in after that 12 months off, it nearly felt like (I was) a new draftee again,” he said.

“It was just really exciting to train, get around the boys, catch up with the staff again.

“I am really excited and we are in a really healthy space with where the list is at.

“You like to keep a lid on things, but it’s exciting to know we can do something special.”

Their hopes of doing something special in round one against the Hawks were boosted when Luke Hodge was ruled out because of a club suspension.

“A bit of locker room banter going around, saying it’s pretty handy for us,” Heppell said.

“Look, they obviously have a fantastic outfit and can cover a lot of their good players.

“Their list is quite deep and it’s going to be a great challenge for us.”

But above all else, Heppell and his returning teammates no longer have the anti-doping process hanging over their heads.

“It really does feel like clean air now,” he said.

“Throughout that last period of our time at the club, it was like everything that came out was riding on a decision.

“It did sink in quite a bit and a lot of stuff hurt.

“But now it’s whatever comes out, it has no bearing on us and the club as a whole, really.”

If you need help, contact Lifeline on 131114, Beyond Blue or other services for support.

-AAP

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