Back in March, more in sorrow than in anger, I wrote a blogpost critical of my childhood hero Geoffrey Boycott, who had some some rather insensitive things about Michael Yardy, who had come home from the World Cup. The piece I wrote then is here.
It seems Yardy is still having real problems, and having made a comeback to cricket a few weeks ago, he is now taking another break. I am very sad for him, but very pleased to see from his piece on the BBC website that Geoffrey has softened his attitude, and now seems better to understand that depression is an illness, not a by-product of poor form or the inability to take criticism.
He remains one of my favourite ever cricketers, and I am pleased to post his latest offering in full below…
‘I am very sad to hear that Michael Yardy is taking another break from cricket to deal with his ongoing depression.
It’s very upsetting when somebody is not well and can’t play and I really hope he gets better and gets the help he needs.
Yardy is currently taking a break from cricket
It is not us cricketers who can help him. All we can do is wish him well, but he needs specialised help from people who do understand it.
When Michael flew home from the World Cup in March, I made some insensitive remarks about his cricket and for that I am sorry.
But with regard to his illness, people were left with the wrong impression of what I had said.
In my BBC interviews I clearly said if the lad is ill he needs to go home. Some parts of the media chose not to report that. I also said I am not a doctor. I am not qualified to talk about depression or mental illness.
I never came across it when I was playing, or met anyone outside of cricket who was suffering from depression. I don’t have any personal experience of it and it is hard for my generation to understand, because we did not know if we came into contact with it.
In my day if you were down or depressed we were just told to pull ourselves together.
Now we realise it is not that simple.
And what has become apparent since the World Cup is that some of the England camp knew for a while that he was sick and had a problem and that they were monitoring it.
At the time I did say that begs the question should our selectors have put him in that pressurised position, playing for England such a long way from home?
Hopefully Michael is in good hands now back at Sussex and let’s hope he can get the treatment he needs so he can go on playing the game we all love for many years to come.’
Well said, Alastair.
Mr Boycott is a big man indeed to write this piece.
I did hear Geoff Boycott on Today (Radio 4) at the time and his explanation is backed up by my memory. He seems to realise now that mental illness is not a sign of weakness or lack of ability and it’s vital for public figures not hint that it is.
Thank you for being the all-rounded fair correspondent that you are and using you popular blog to ‘set the record straight’, as it were.
My father suffered from depression and, as part of MS, I find that my physical state brings down my emotional state and, I suspect, vice versa.
Pulling yourself together is a minute part of the battle…knowing you need to address your issues and get medical help, knowing when that time has come, knowing you can rely on that help…all these things take time to work through. Just popping a few tablets, bracing your shoulders and getting on with it…oh how misguided that attitude was, is, and always will be.
You are brave Alastair, so is Yardy, and now Boycott has been brave to redress the balance. Fine men all.
Michael Yardy should be applauded .To publicly say that he is suffering from a mental health difficulty in such a masculine sport takes an awful lot of courage.Speaking from my own experience depression cripples both mind and body.I really hope and wish that Michael is pulling through and slowly getting well.I also have to say that Alastair Campbell is helping shed a positive light on the often neglected issue of mental health.
Well done Boycott and well done Yardy for the courage to be honest about the problems, the connotations of the prefixes mental or emotional make that quite a feat.
Stephen Fry has said he’d never wish to lose his ups and downs and I’m sure his work means the downs help the ups, it’s not the same for a professional in a physical business that needs continuity.
The long periods away and the unsociable hours during the home season shred personal and home life.
I’m glad that Boycott has said this although if you read it carefully he is saying he was mis-represented by the media and I’m still left with the impression that he doesn’t grasp the difference between ‘being down’ and having clinical depression. But he’s not alone in that.
On Friday Channel 4 showed a comedy gala in aid of Great Ormond Street. Kevin Bridges did a very offensive piece (in my view) about the good side of having depression, something along the lines of being able to lie in bed all day eating Jaffa Cakes. I don’t suppose he would have done jokes about the sick children in Great Ormond Street, although one can’t be sure given the track record of some of today’s so-called comedians. But it seems to be socially acceptable to make fun of mental illness and I see no sign of that changing.
I should add that I have not myself suffered from depression and I think that almost anything is a suitable subject for comedy but the content and context is crucial. So is the need for it to be genuinely funny. Kevin Bridges might have got away with it if he had suffered from depression himself, in the same way that a black comedian can use the ‘n’ word or a gay comedian the ‘q’ word. But this was just lazy comedy, lacking any insight or wit. Like Frankie Boyle at his worst.
I’m glad Geoff Boycott has back-pedalled on his criticisms – all credit to him.
I really think, though, we have to find another term for the illness of depression. So many people say they feel ‘depressed’ when they are just a bit low or fed up. So when they hear that someone is ‘depressed’ they think it’s just a matter of ‘pulling yourself together’ instead of understanding that this is an illness that isn’t cured by giving yourself a kick in the pants, but one that needs not just sympathy but treatment. And, as I said, we need another name that recognises the seriousness of the affliction. Doctors use the term ‘clinical depression’ which I suppose is a start.
I sincerly hope that Michael Yardy recovers and becomes stronger for it. As for Boycott, it’s good that he someone has obviously educated him that mental illness needs to be debated more and it affects many people.
That said Boycott still bottled it at the thought of facing Lillee & Thomson, Holding, Roberts, Daniel and Marshall.
All Boycott ever thought of was Boycott and Boycott.
Geoff Boycott’s initial response, and the publicity that surrounded it, enabled there to be a much wider discussion in the media which I believe was handled with sensitivity and care.
It is fact that many still do view depression much in the same that Geoff Boycott has done in the past. But his changing attitudes will provide something of a narrative for those who still can’t quite grasp this most difficult of illnesses.
There is now a much greater understanding in our society that depression is an illness that is quite unlike any other. It takes quite a man to admit that their mores and values that they have carried for most of their life are wrong.
But then Geoff Boycott is a sportsman; and a true sportsman will always raise their hand and acknowledge when they have made a bad call.
Many depressions are food reaction and nutrient related it seems, from just a reaction to eating wheat and other gluten related proteins onwards, or an immune system problem causing neurological effects as a side-symptom.
I have a theory why so many cricketers, especially retired ones, are succeptable to depression – maybe something to do with vitamin D. That is, suddenly not being out in the sunshine for most of the summer, which produces vitamin D in the skin, with its subtle effects throughout the body in some way. Well, it’s just a theory really.
When you are overloaded and have a perfect level of Vitamin D metabolites in your body, doing their usual work, and then either winter or retirement happens, or if your body becomes used to the downturn winter of it, without playing in India, as Trescothick, things happen within your body for a white man.
Could be a field of research, but just not for whiteman, bro,
Any cricket council with any worth should look into the vitamin D thing, and shove some money into it in research, especially whitemen cricketers that travel the Earth, playing tings. Ha-ha-ha!
By the way, “lead me by my hand”!?! As if!
Oh I say!