Ex-AFL star shines light on black dog battle

Alicia PereraPilbara News
Former footballer Heath Black will be in Tom Price next week to discuss mental health issues.
Camera IconFormer footballer Heath Black will be in Tom Price next week to discuss mental health issues. Credit: One Life

Former Fremantle and St Kilda footballer Heath Black knows what it is like to battle mental illness and the downward spiral that can come with it when left untreated.

“I call it the danger zone,” he said. “The emotions I had at that point — it was the world that had the problem, I didn’t have the problem, which is pretty scary.

“The two other emotions were that I felt alone, and I had huge amounts of anger.

“By chance, I fell into the lap of someone who was a doctor and we were able to work our way through it, but if I hadn’t fallen into their lap, I’m not sure which way it would have gone.”

The 192-game AFL star will visit Tom Price next week to give two presentations, open to anyone in the community, as part of a series of events organised by the Shire of Ashburton to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Mental Health Week.

Black retired from professional football in 2008 during a dark period in which he struggled with mental illness and drinking problems.

His marriage broke down, he lost out on job opportunities and was arrested several times, and he was diagnosed with bipolar II and ADHD type six. Since then, Black has turned his life around and become an ambassador for positive mental health, often touring regional areas to share his message.

After speaking in Tom Price about four years ago, he said his latest Pilbara talk would cover a wide range of points including the mental health challenges of working in the mining industry, how to recognise warning signs and get help and celebrating the progress made in mental health awareness over the past fifty years.

He urged people to take their mental health seriously.

“We’re all allowed to be sad and that’s fine, but if it lasts for quite a while, say more than a month, and it’s affecting your relationships, you need to act,” he said.

“Your first port of call is your GP. You just have to go, because it only took me eight months to go from kicking a footy around at the MCG to being in an East Perth lock-up. It went really quickly.”

Black will be at Tom Price Community Hall on Friday, October 13 at 9am and 11am. For more information, call the Shire of Ashburton on 9188 4474 or 9188 5514.

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