A former AFL star has spoken about his struggles with depression and anxiety, revealing that his mental health was once so bad that he was considering suicide.
Jake Edwards was a rising star when he abruptly quit his promising footy career at Carlton after a bad game.
The 19-year-old drove home to his parents’ farm and called the club on the way to tell them he was quitting footy.
What he had kept away from his coaches and fellow teammates was that he went through a daily battle that included insomnia, self-isolation and crying, and he no longer knew where to go for help.
“I did what every typical young man does and just shut down. I didn’t want to talk about it, I didn’t want people to know. I eventually got a meltdown and went to mom and dad. I just couldn’t get out of bed. ‘ he told QWeekend.
Jake Edwards (pictured) runs the nonprofit mental health program Outside the Dressing Room
At the age of 19, Jake Edwards abruptly left his promising career as a football player at Carlton after a bad match
Edwards said he was angry and confused because he didn’t understand why he was going through what he was going through.
After being diagnosed with depression and anxiety, Edwards started taking medications and was able to return to Carlton.
He described himself as young and naive, saying he thought he had found a solution to his condition just by taking a pill.
He admits he didn’t ask enough questions after being diagnosed because he wanted to get back on the field and didn’t realize his sanity was an ongoing problem.
A few years later, after he left Carlton and started training with the Western Bulldogs, he was overlooked in the AFL draw – a blow that would turn his condition up with revenge.
Edwards plunged into a drink and drug spiral that culminated in his attempted suicide in his bathroom after a four-day binge.
“I thought it was the right thing to do at the time, that my family could move on and that friends shouldn’t have to worry about me anymore. But what I know now is that everything I said to myself was made up at the time. ‘
It is a long way from where the 32-year-old is today, and has launched his own non-profit ‘Outside the Locker Room’ aimed at promoting mental health in sports clubs and schools.
About 200 sports clubs have signed up for the program, most recently with the Brisbane Lions AFL club on board.
The program revolves around educational sessions on drugs, alcohol, cyberbullying, domestic violence and suicide prevention.
About 200 sports clubs have joined Edward’s program, with the Brisbane Lions AFL club on board last
Trained counselors are available outside the locker room to help young people before their problems get out of hand
Brisbane Lions legend Luke Hodge, 36, is an enthusiastic supporter of the initiative.
Hodge said the program is important in helping children gain the courage to make their voices heard when they have problems – with research showing about two-thirds of mental illness before age 25.
The 20-year-old AFL veteran said the teaching sessions were also important for coaches and teachers to raise awareness that just because a child says they are doing well doesn’t necessarily mean they are.
He says that communicating and asking the right questions to get people to open up was key to addressing mental health issues.
The initiative just received a $ 500,000 donation from the philanthropic organization the Epic Good Foundation.
Edwards says the money will be used to roll out the scheme to 20 more schools and clubs in Queensland, hoping that children will get help sooner than he does.
“Fortunately for me, I was given my father’s hand again and I was allowed to hug my mother again, but unfortunately there are many families of people who don’t get that chance.”
Edwards says he worked with drug and alcohol support staff, psychiatrists, and had done a lot of work on himself to get through his struggles.
Trained counselors are available outside the locker room to help young people before their problems get out of hand.
The program is currently available as an app due to limitations of the coronavirus, Edwards says, but will hopefully resume personal lessons soon.
For confidential support, call Lifeline 24-Hour Crisis Support at: 13 11 14