Steve Smith: ‘It’s OK for blokes to talk about what they’re going through’

Out of cricketer Steve Smith’s darkest days came his resolve to help tackle one of Australia’s greatest challenges – our men’s mental health crisis.

On the field, the former Australian captain is regarded as one of cricket’s most mentally formidable players, but off it he understands as well as anyone the challenges life can sometimes throw up.

Steve’s highly publicised suspension from the game following a 2018 ball tampering scandal was undoubtedly a testing experience for the star batsman.

But it was during his forced absence from cricket he determined to use his time to try to help others.

So when Gus Worland, founder of men’s mental health foundation Gotcha4Life, told him about the mental health plight facing Aussie men and the staggering suicide rate, he wanted to help.

“Gus told me about the suicide rate – six men, two women a day committing suicide out of the 25 million people or thereabouts that we’ve got,” says Steve.

“I thought those numbers are just astronomically high, and I wanted to get involved and try and have some kind of impact and create an awareness around mental health.”

I’m just trying to create that awareness that everyone does face difficult times in their life and has demons in their mind, and being able to talk through them is important.

Supporting Gotcha4Life’s vital work

Steve has since been working with Gotcha4Life visiting school groups to encourage students, especially males, to talk about any difficulties they might be experiencing.

“As young men, or men in general, for a long time it’s been about having that masculine side and not being able to share your emotions and talk about feelings,” says Steve.

“I think that’s an outdated way of thinking. It’s OK for blokes to talk about what they’re going through, and show emotion and just get whatever they’re going through off their chest.

“If you keep bottling things up and letting it sit inside you, it keeps adding up and it gets to a point where it can all explode.”

How helping others became a healing experience for Steve Smith

While Steve was visiting schools to help young people during his time off from the game, he says the experience also formed part of his emotional healing from the scandal.

“I guess therapeutic at times to be able to talk about my experiences and my feelings, and get some things off my chest, which was good,” he says.

“Then to hear the feedback from all the schools – kids coming forward and saying they wanted to get help and stuff like that, it was like, ‘this is pretty powerful stuff’ – it gave me a sense I was making a difference.”

While Steve is now once again a pivotal member of the Aussie cricket side, he is still committed to helping support the mental welfare of all men.

“Whether you’re an elite athlete or an actor or whatever, we all have moments that are tough,” he says.

“I’m just trying to create that awareness that everyone does face difficult times in their life and has demons in their mind, and being able to talk through them is important.”

The biggest health issues affecting Australian men

  • Depression and anxiety: One in eight men experiences depression and one in five experiences anxiety.
  • Suicide: Around 3000 Australians take their lives each year, and about six out of every eight suicides is by a man. Suicide is the biggest cause of death for men aged 15-44.
  • Prostate cancer: The risk of a man being diagnosed with prostate cancer by his 85th birthday is one in six.
  • Heart disease: The leading cause of all deaths in Australia is also the leading cause of death among men, accounting for around 10,000 deaths a year.
  • Colorectal cancers: The third most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia affects more men than women.

Men’s Health Week is June 15-21.

Written by Claire Burke.