A former Accrington and England batsman has likened his battle with depression to that of alcoholism.
Accrington-born and bred Graeme Fowler, 59, has suffered from depression for 12 years and now gives lectures on the issue to help break down the stigma around mental health.
Graeme, who played for Accrington, Lancashire and Durham and won 47 international caps for England between 1982 and 1986, addressed the inaugural Families, Health and Wellbeing Consortium conference at Turf Moor in Burnley last week.
Graeme, who grew up in Peel Park, says that even on good days, depression is never far away, just as an alcoholic who may not have a drink in their hand still has the disease.
He told the Observer: “I’ve always felt it’s like being an alcoholic - even if you’re not suffering at the time, it’s always in the background. Telling my story reminds me how I felt and upsets me but I do it to help people.”
The former Accrington Grammar School pupil first spoke out about his illness two years after what he calls his first major episode.
He recalled: “I was shouting out of the dark on Twitter I was depressed and people said it was great I talked about it, then it just snowballed. Someone said if it wasn’t for what I tweeted they wouldn’t be here.
"Nothing triggered my depression - I had a lovely house, family and great job running the Durham University Centre of Cricketing Excellence. It just hit me about 10 years after I finished playing.”
Graeme, who now lives near Durham, only sought help after his wife Sarah became concerned about his behaviour.
He now uses a scale of one to 20, one being the most depressed and 20 the best.
He said: “I’ve never been a one or a 19 but whatever number I tell my family, they just get on with. People are frightened to tell bosses and partners how they feel, even though mental health problems affect one in four of us.”
Fellow England batsmen Marcus Trescothick, Michael Yardy and Jonathan Trott have all spoken out in recent years about battles with depression.
But Graeme said: “People think there are more mental health issues in cricket than other sports but it’s just we talk more about it. Cricket is the only sporting body with a mental health charter.”