The death of Dan Vickerman the former wallaby second row and one of the games enforcers hit me harder than I can really understand. I didn’t have a personal attachment to him, I remember him as a player and from his time as a Cambridge blue. It hit me hard that this tough uncompromising man on the field of play, could feel so helpless and lost off it. To leave behind a wife and child who could not help ease the burden he carried.
Vickerman falls into one of the most difficult categories of mental health someone who was clearly high functioning and getting on with the day to day things while obviously struggling. So many people suffer alone not because they have no choice but because they want to feel they are in control when they know deep down they are not.
Suicide and mental health issues are currently very well covered. The current #LiftTheWeight campaign is one of these. In sport the transition from player to normal day to day life is notoriously fragile. It is filled with fear and uncertainty and without the structure that professional sport brings to the lives of athletes.
It is not just sportsmen and women that are affected. Suicide is now the leading cause of death for men under 50 years of age making up nearly 25% of all deaths. This is a horrific statistic. Being able to talk about the issues is vital but it is clear Vickerman had that ability in his role helping others come to terms with it. The priority has to be about trying to find help and treat people. Vickerman spoke to friends, he had a young family around him and yet that wasn’t enough to make him want to stay. So what could be done?
When you read about Dan Vickerman you hear of him being a thoughtful man, a caring man, a funny man and most importantly, a good man.
One of the greatest descriptions of this black cloak of depression and mental health is written by Charles Dickens in the novel “A Tale of Two Cities” in it he describes Sydney Carton a central character.
“Sadly, sadly, the sun rose; it rose upon no sadder sight than that of a man of good abilities and good emotions, incapable of their directed exercise, incapable of his own help and his own happiness, sensible of the blight on him, and resigning himself to let it eat him away.”
Carton, in the end, sacrifices his life for someone else. To enable someone else to live the life he so desperately wanted but was incapable of creating.
Understanding mental health is incredibly challenging, for experts, for those around suffers, and the sufferers themselves. I hope that Dan Vickerman’s life and death maybe drives someone in need of help to seek it. Maybe they can live the life they desperately want a live, with the ability to overcome the tragic sadness that results in poor mental health. If one person seeks help as a result of it, it won’t be the sad waste it currently feels that it is.