'Demons' made me think of suicide: Steve Harmison

  • AFP

    AFP

    June 17, 2017 | 09:02 AM

Former England pacer Steve Harmison (Photo: Facebook)

Harmison took 17 wickets in the extraordinary Ashes series win over Australia in England in 2005.

Former leading England pace bowler Steve Harmison has revealed his battle with depression got so bad at the peak of his career he contemplated suicide.

The 38-year-old -- who played 63 Tests in which he took 226 wickets -- says in his autobiography 'Speed Demons', which is being serialised in the 'Daily Mirror', he had gone in 2004 to see a psychologist about his 'demons'.

This was at a time when he was considered the world's best bowler -- Australian spin legend Shane Warne has listed him as being one of the top 50 cricketers of all time.

Harmison -- who is one of a series of England cricketing greats such as opener Marcus Trescothick and all-rounder Andrew Flintoff to have spoken about suffering from depression -- said he suffered from depression on long tours abroad but found it pursued him even in a home series.

"Fast forward to the great summer of 2004, when I was number one in the rankings for the Test bowlers," says Harmison.

"It was the same story -- only worse. I was in no position to celebrate. I was in no state to do anything.

"England won all seven Tests but as that summer went on I could feel the brightness growing darker.

"The horrible truth was those same feelings, which had consumed me on trips abroad, were overpowering me again -- and this time it had nothing to do with being away from home.

"The demons had not bothered to travel. They had come to get me at home, in the middle of a very successful English summer.

"I spoke to the England team doctor Peter Gregory and saw a psychologist. I was asked: "Have you ever considered harming yourself?" That frightened the hell out of me.

"The honest answer was "Maybe". I can't say there haven't been dark times where I thought it would be easier if I wasn't here.

"It was clear I was clinically depressed and medication would be the way forward. I've been on it ever since."

Harmison, who took 17 wickets in the extraordinary Ashes series win over Australia in England in 2005, is less sympathetic towards Jonathan Trott judging the language the England batsman used to describe his reason for returning early form the 2013/14 tour of Australia as not ringing true.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said at the time his premature return was due to a stress-related illness.

"When it comes to Jonathan Trott's illness, it's not that I question it, but I'd like to know deep down what the problem is," said Harmison.

"The statements he's made, the things he's said, the language he's used, makes me wonder if he just pulled the ladder up because the game got too hard.

"When he came back early from Australia after being bombarded by Mitchell Johnson and used the word "nutcase" while talking about what happened, I found that puzzling.

"Someone who has mental health problems doesn't use that terminology.

"When I saw Trott interviewed after coming home, I thought 'Wow, he's not poorly, he's weak'. He was describing someone who was mentally not very strong.

"I hope it was a mistranslation, but I have a nagging doubt Trott left the tour because he thought it was tough rather than because he was ill."

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