Dale Thomas Opens Up About Anxiety Battle, AFL Pressure And Fatherhood
Taking his anti-anxiety medication, Dale explained to Miguel he has struggled with mental health for several years.
“Stressing about things that are going to happen or things that have happened for no reason,” he said. “You can’t control it.”
Dale told the celebrity chef that for almost a year and a half he would go to footy, sit in his car and cry before forcing himself to go to practice, crack jokes and put on what he called “a big front, just to get through”.
Heading home, the former Carlton player said he would be exhausted from pretending everything was okay he would go straight to bed.
Many elite sports players have suffered from mental health issues in the past, especially in the AFL. Due to the high level of scrutiny players face, there is a lot of pressure on and off the field for AFL players which can have a significant effect on their mental health.
In recent years many players have come forward and revealed their own battles with mental health, with some young players being forced to resign due to overwhelming pressures and risks to their health.
Tom Boyd, Travis Cloke, Mitch Clark, Simon Hogan, Buddy Franklin, Jonathon Marsh, Barry Hall, Nathan Thompson, Wayne Schwass and Heath Black are all just a small sample of the players who have come forward with their own experiences of mental health.
In October last year the AFL appointed Dr Kate Hall as its head of mental health and well-being. The sport also has mental health guidelines and resources on its official website with stats indicating that due to the median age of AFL players and the stresses they face, the risks of players suffering from anxiety, depression, substance abuse or other mental illnesses is high.
“I guess the manliness and the macho culture associated with footy clubs was a big part of why I tried to hide what I was going through,” Simon Hogan said in a video speaking about his experiences battling depression.
“I thought I couldn’t show any weakness,” he continued. “The most surprising thing was, once I did open up, the incredible support I got from everyone from the blokiest of blokes and the people you wouldn’t expect it. Everyone was so supportive and wanted to help me in any way they can.”
Back in camp, Dale admitted there was “no doubt playing elite level sport and everything that comes with it” contributed to his mental health issues.
“Once I got to a point where I had injuries on injuries, I was getting slammed in the press… I was getting slammed everywhere,” he said, “and the best way you can to shut that noise up is to go out and play good footy and I wasn’t even doing that.”
Explaining that he believes a lot of his anxiety stems from his childhood, Dale told Miguel, “my old man was abusive, alcoholic”.
“Because I never dealt with it, having my daughter -- all the stuff from your childhood just comes back to the surface.”
Earlier, speaking to Tanya Hennessy for her ‘I’m A Celebrity’ podcast, Dale revealed that his divorce also had a major effect on him.
“Going through the split with the missus in pre-season, my daughter being removed from my care and only getting her every second weekend at best at the start, and then having to try and rock up to pre-season… at that point I really didn’t care.”