West Coast premiership midfielder Chad Fletcher has opened up about his battle with mental illness, saying there were dark clouds hovering above him during the finest season of his AFL career.
Fletcher endured some rocky times both during and after his 179-game AFL career, which ended in 2009.
The 36-year-old almost died during the club’s end-of-season trip to Las Vegas in 2006, with drugs rumoured to be the cause of his dramatic collapse.
Fletcher spent several days in hospital following that incident, but his manager denied drugs were involved.
A year after retiring from AFL ranks, Fletcher pleaded guilty to possession of a small amount of cocaine after being busted at a Sydney nightclub, and he lost his licence in 2014 for drink driving.
But it was during his All-Australian year of 2004 where his battle with mental illness peaked.
“In 2004 I suffered a few dark clouds … it was a real struggle for me,” Fletcher told the Seven Network.
“I didn’t come out until probably six months after (the season finished), until I realised that I had to embrace it and get some help. And I did.
“I guess for someone who’s at the height of their career, to still struggle with some mental illness is a real eye opener for people on the outside world.”
Fletcher said it was important for people not to jump to conclusions about certain behaviours without knowing the full story behind it.
“I just feel like people should be judged on a blank canvas,” Fletcher said.
“And until they know the person and the situation, I feel like it’s unfair for people to judge, especially with deeper issues.
“We all have some emotional times throughout our careers and our life.”
Fletcher now lives in Bali, working as a fitness instructor at a five-star resort.
The 2006 premiership star is helping promote the suicide prevention group R U OK?
In October, Fletcher will cycle from Perth to Albany as part of a charity event organised by the group.
Fletcher said it was tough to reveal his own battle with depression back in 2004, but he’s glad the issue of mental health is more in the open nowadays.
“The bravado around the football club is huge,” Fletcher said.
“I guess coming out nowadays is not seen as a weakness, It’s more shown as courage.”