Not a Fan of Cricket, BUT HUGE FAN OF THIS!!!

Well as I’m sure you got from the title of this blog, I don’t follow cricket. But I saw this interview by Australian Cricket Head Coach Justin Langer discussing the announcement that Australian Cricketer Glenn Maxwell would be taking a break to concentrate on his mental health and was blown away with what he was saying…a breath of fresh air to say the least!

Glenn Maxwell

Watching the full interview on I thought it was brilliant from start to finish and take my hat off to Glenn Maxwell for going public – not that anyone suffering with mental health should feel in anyway pressured to do this – but also to the Coach Justin Langer, who says very modestly at one point that he doesn’t know much about mental health, as he clearly has a fantastic grasp and understanding.

I want to highlight some parts in this brilliant interview, looking at:

  • Warning signs and intervention
  • The Masks we wear
  • People suffering with Mental Health can still be high performers
  • Treatment and Stigma
Warning signs and intervention

[I could see] he’s struggling a bit and it took great courage for him to tell us he isn’t OK.

A few things weren’t quite adding up, so I just asked him how he was going, and he said not that well actually. I’m pleased hes got that trust in the environment to be able to do that.

There’s been a few times I suspected he was battling…just shows they’re human. We probably don’t have an appreciation in all our society (about the pressures affecting mental health) …what most people see is what they see on tele and most of the time you’re on TV you’ve got your armour or your mask on and that’s for a lot of players. I’ve had more guys in my office over the last 8 or 9 years, young blokes it’s unbelievable, who are working through who are working through different things in their lives.

Justin Langer, Australian Cricket Head Coach.
Warning Sign

So first of all, if you are or think you are suffering and don’t want to say anything in case you think it’s weak to admit it, you couldn’t be more wrong my friends. Speaking personally and as Justin Langer said in his interview, it takes huge amounts of courage, not weakness. People are there and want to help you, you’re not alone.

Secondly, if you suspect someone is battling or something in their behavior is not adding up, reach out, ask them if they’re OK. Trust me you wont offend or upset anyone and you could just save a life! It’s serious stuff. I think it’s brilliant that he says he’s happy his player has “trust in the environment” to be able to speak up about his struggles.

The masks we wear

Behind the mask of the great entertainer, great talent and great team man and everything that we see publicly.

Justin Langer, Australian Cricket Head Coach.

This is just me all over – and before anyone who knows me says it, I’m not talking about the “great talent” bit, though if you think so feel free to let me know where my great talent lies 🙂 – I’m talking about the MASK! Not the film, the ones we wear.

If I had a £ for every time someone has said in response to my mental health battles, things like “no, not Dave Crompton?!” or “I never knew, you kept that quiet” or “if I’d have known I would have done something”.

Now let me just be very clear here, I am not for one second placing any blame on others not spotting my issues. The last thing I wanted in the world was for anyone to know anything, through fear, guilt and shame I guess. I was great at hiding it, unfortunately so.

But if we can recognise that this happens, that people wear masks to hide how they are really feeling, we may be more aware of slight or little things that may give us an indication that something isn’t quite right with that person. Rather than just thinking, “well I saw them the other day and they seemed fine to me?”

People suffering with Mental Health can still be high performers

I don’t really understand mental health that well, except I’ve seen a lot of people suffering from it the last few years, personally or professionally. It’s not like a hamstring that just snaps or a finger that just breaks, it probably just builds up. Even though he had that incredible innings and he fielded like a genius, I don’t think he got much joy out of it. You’re not just doing it to win games of cricket, you’ve got to have fun whilst your doing it…even though he’s got that smile on his face when he plays.

The day before he just didn’t seem t have his usual zip and enthusiasm. Although he’s still trying hard and still working hard. We saw how well he batted and fielded, but they often put on a mask. That’s his armour, his energy and the way he plays, he’s the great entertainer…when you build relationships with people you sense when they’re not quite right.

Justin Langer, Australian Cricket Head Coach.

Something that I – and I know others think this way too – wan’t people to understand is that people suffering with mental health issues can still be high performers. Suffering from mental health issues does not mean we are weak, gibbering messes curled up under a desk somewhere – though we could be at some point. Part of the immense strain and pressure felt by those with mental health issues can be making sure you still perform in your job to hide what’s going on. It could be that the only thing a person feels they have control of is their work so they do it and do it well. However, just because someone can still perform does not diminish their suffering; or mean that they can’t really be that bad because they are still good at their job and delivering. Just think of the strain and pressure it takes for someone to be still be a high performer and suffer at the same time.

I think a great line from this interview here, is when Justin says that you still need to have fun. Life and work isn’t just about going through the motions and delivering consistently, you have to have fun or else it will all fall apart.

Justin also very subtly I guess, introduce the notion that mental health and physical health are very similar in that they can both have injuries and both need time out for treatment. I love this.

Treatment and stigma

Mentally and physically it’s exhausting and we need to find the balance.

We’ll keep in touch with him constantly…he’ll get an assessment in the next day or so…like all injuries we’ll work out how he is with it, we’ll work out when he’s going to return to play hopefully healthier and happier more importantly.

We’ll keep in touch with him constantly…he’ll get an assessment in the next day or so…like all injuries we’ll work out how he is with it, we’ll work out when he’s going to return to play hopefully healthier and happier more importantly.

It’s not just about making runs or taking wickets or winning games of cricket, there’s more to it and that’s not just with sportsmen but also everywhere in our community.

We haven’t seen too many cases of it publicly, we see a lot of cases behind closed doors…show people respect and care for them and understand it’s not just what you see behind the mask.

Justin Langer, Australian Cricket Head Coach.

Here Justin talks about finding the balance and this is the key to it all. We hear the term work life balance a lot these days but I like to think of it from two angles. There’s the first and more common view that we need a balance between work and fun. Absolutely right and I’m not going to dwell on this point – it is a very important point but quite self explanatory.

But for me, the term work life balance needs to be viewed from a stress angle, and/or a happiness angle. It’s not just about work loads of stuff going on in work and out. If the stress of things happening in or out of work, or the happiness levels aren’t right, this too can cause us serious mental health issues and then the danger of spiraling can take effect. By spiraling I mean one negative thing feeding the other negative thing and so on. Another term could be snow balling.

Anyway, here’s a link to the full interview if you want to watch it.

I think it’s fantastic for a coach and a seasoned professional to be talking about mental health in such an open and understanding way, especially in the world of men’s sports. If everyone was as supportive as Justin Langer the world would be a better place for it.

Take care of yourselves.

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