Sports stars battle depression

Former NHLer Stéphane Richer. (Sebastien St-Jean/QMI Agency)

Former NHLer Stéphane Richer. (Sebastien St-Jean/QMI Agency)

BILL HARRIS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:45 PM ET

Former NHLer Stéphane Richer is looking at an old picture of himself, supposedly enjoying a Stanley Cup parade.

So it certainly gets your attention when Richer says, “Four days later, I tried to kill myself.”

Richer’s revelations are part of the new one-hour documentary Darkness and Hope: Depression, Sports and Me. It airs Wednesday, Feb. 8 on CTV and TSN2.

Michael Landsberg, host of TSN’s Off The Record, is part host and part subject in the doc. He talks about his own serious battles with depression, in addition to interviewing a trio of well-known athletes — Richer, Olympian Clara Hughes and former baseball player Darryl Strawberry — who have struggled with the disease.

The doc examines how the world of sports can be particularly difficult for those suffering from depression, because a typical reaction outside the sports community is, “What the heck do you have to complain about? You’re a beloved, famous, accomplished athlete.”

That attitude also seeps into the athletes themselves, whose inner voices are saying, “What is wrong with me? Why aren’t I enjoying my successful moments? Why do I feel this way?”

Hughes talks about what it’s like to have Canadians of all stripes thanking her for her Olympic triumphs, while at the same time she can’t even get off her own couch.

Strawberry talks about being able to have a hint of a smile when things were going well on the baseball field, but always remembering in the back of his mind that the second he took off that uniform, he had no idea who he was.

As Landsberg points out, “More than half of us still believe that depression is a weakness, not a sickness.”

Nonetheless, the general feel of Darkness and Hope: Depression, Sports and Me is positive. It stresses that depression can be managed, and that the vast majority of people who actually seek help end up feeling better and living happier lives.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca


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