Monday, 25 November 2013

Mental disintegration: the unacceptable face of cricket

Well done then, Australian cricketer David Warner. There you are sporting your Movember moustache, supposedly declaring your allegiance to the cause of men’s health, supporting men who are struggling with physical and mental health problems.
And then, after the Aussies paste England in the first Ashes test match, you gleefully declare that the performance of England cricketer Jonathan Trott was “poor and weak” and that he had “scared eyes”. You promise him there will be more “sledging” (the cricketing art of heaping abuse on batsmen with the aim of causing “mental disintegration” – a term coined by one Australian captain ). 
“Disrespectful” is how the cricketing community has condemned Warner’s words. For those who care about mental health, the condemnation should be stronger – particularly after the news that Jonathan Trott has now had to withdraw from the Ashes tour “because of a long-standing stress-related condition”.
In some machismo circles, it is seen as a necessary part of being a competitive male that you should put those down who can be labelled weak or mentally frail.  In school, such behaviour is called bullying.
Can it have any long-term effect? You bet. More and more studies are showing that bullying leads to mental health problems. A study published in one of the most respected psychiatric journals this year found that victims of bullying were nearly five times as likely to have anxiety and panic attacks than those who weren’t bullied.
It’s pretty clear that David Warner’s comments didn’t cause Trott’s stress-related problems, but they didn’t help. Anyone who really wanted to help the cause of men’s health wouldn’t be attempting to cause mental disintegration. Perhaps David Warner needs to be told that nearly 10% of premature male deaths are the result of suicide, self-harm and accidents. 
Hairs come easy. Actions don’t.