Hay reveals illness
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Kangaroos defender Jonathan Hay has revealed that he has
been suffering from bipolar disorder for the past three
The 2001 All Australian addressed his teammates and
informed them of his struggle with the illness before
making an emotional statement to the media on Monday.
"I would rather not be sitting here today, but things
have come to a point for my own benefit and in the
interests of the North Melbourne Football Club, my
teammates and all the supporters, I need to give an
explanation as to why I have had the year I've had," Hay
"Three years ago I was diagnosed with a mental health
problem known as bipolar depression."
Hay had been
receiving treatment for the condition but said that
recently, the treatment had not been working.
"This illness has directly effected my form, and at
times my well-being and behaviour off the field."
"I am continuing to receive expert help and I am doing
all in my power to ensure I can recover fully and return
to consistent senior football."
"I want to publicly thank the North Melbourne football
club and my teammates for standing by me during this
Kangaroos CEO Geoff Walsh indicated that the club will
give Hay its full support in his attempt to recover from
Walsh was also quick to forgive Hay for his previous
misdemeanours now that the reason for those
misdemeanours - including drinking before a VFL game in
Tasmania, failing to turn up to team training and
disappointing the team on the field - has emerged.
"Knowing that today (that Hay had bipolar depression)
would we have dealt with it earlier? Would we have
looked at that as warning signs? Would we have treated
that with a bit more understanding?" Walsh asked. "You
can tick all those boxes."
Former Kangaroo and Sydney Swan Wayne Schwass, now the
director of the Sunrise Foundation, an organisation that
addresses depression in elite athletes, called Hay's
statement 'courageous' and threw his full support behind
the defender's rehabilitation efforts.
"It's about the person right at the moment, it's not
about the football player and if we can support Jon in
his recovery, I'm sure that we will see Jon Hay the
footballer return" Schwass said.
Schwass announced earlier this year that he had played
at the highest level while suffering from depression,
and he said that he was using his experience in the AFL
and with the illness to assist and mentor Hay.
"All I would encourage Jon to do is concentrate on what
he's doing now" Schwass said.
"I think Jon's got all the support he needs to move
forward and get well again."
The club did not put a timeframe on Hay's return to
form, but Professor Patrick McGorry, a psychiatrist at
Melbourne University, was confident that the former Hawk
would make a full recovery.
"It is very much a health problem … it has to be thought
about as any another injury you suffer in the course of
your life, in the course of your career." Professor
"We are very optimistic that he will make a good
recovery. The analogy I have is osteitis pubis, you
don't know when it is going to get better, and you can't
"You have to stick with it and hope the player comes
McGorry said that Hay's on-field and off-field struggles
epitomise the symptoms of bipolar depression.
"Bipolar depression is a more severe form of depression
that is associated with mood swings," McGorry said.
"Basically depression undermines you energy for living,
you can't sleep so you can imagine in Jon's case he has
not slept at all before a game … it reduces energy, it
reduces your ability to relate well to other people, it
reduces your sense of the future, so you are very
pessimistic, maybe very despairing."
"So it is a very nasty thing to be working through and
it has major effects on your life."
Hay was supported in his media conference by teammate
Nathan Thompson, who has also suffered depression.
Welsh confirmed that that Thompson will use his
experience in overcoming the illness and resuming a
successful AFL career to help Hay get back on track.
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