SEAN Long’s willingness to speak of how he contemplated suicide during a two-and-a-half year battle with depression could help other young men open up, says a mental health charity.
In a candid interview with the Sunday People, the former Saints scrum half spoke about a suicide attempt at his home in Wigan on January 2.
The father-of-three was later sectioned but he is now on the mend and is being looked after by his mum Pamela and brother Karl.
Long, 37, has been supported by former Saints team-mates and has taken strength from messages from fans on social media.
The three-time Lance Todd trophy winner will go down as a modern day great for Saints and was the talisman behind a series of Grand Final, Challenge Cup and World Challenge triumphs.
But he has struggled to come to terms with his career being ended by injury.
He has also suffered the break-up of his marriage, and parted ways with a number of clubs he has held coaching roles with.
Long, 37, told the Sunday People: “I’d just had enough. I’d lost a lot of weight, wasn’t sleeping right, and with everything going on I was trying to juggle too many plates.
“It all came crashing down.
“I just felt like I’d had enough. I didn’t know I was ill.
“I needed help.”
He is the latest high profile rugby league player past and present who has made the brave decision to speak out about mental illness since the suicide of ex-Wigan player Terry Newton.
Dr Phil Cooper, co-founder of the charity State of Mind, which was set up in the wake of Newton’s death, said: “It is good that Sean has got help and that he says that he is feeling better.
“The thing about Sean speaking out is that it can make a difference to a lad at a local amateur club in St Helens, who can hopefully do the same and get help.
“It appears depression (following playing retirement) can be a big issue in any sport.
“League 13 – the players’ organisation – has done research on this with other player groups and it seems the first year or two can be the most difficult.”
Long, who recently left a coaching role at London Broncos, has praised former Saints team-mates Martin Gleeson and Keiron Cunningham for helping him and is feeling more positive.
He added: “I feel the best I’ve felt in a long time. I’m wide awake and alert again.
“I think it’s just been nipped in the bud.”
After receiving messages on Twitter at the weekend, Long wrote: “I would like to thank everyone for their messages of good luck and best wishes after my piece in the Sunday People.
“It means a lot, cheers x.”