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Collingwood's Alex Fasolo opens up about battle with depression

The Age logo The Age 13/09/2017 Sam McClure

Collingwood's Alex Fasolo has talked about his darkest moments this season. © AAP Collingwood's Alex Fasolo has talked about his darkest moments this season. A courageous and honest Alex Fasolo has opened up about the day-to-day struggles of his darkest moments as a footballer, revealing he would often cry before and after training.

The Collingwood star, who took time out from football to deal with depression this season, has described the emotional mask he would wear while around his teammates during one of the toughest period of his life.

Writing for sports storytelling platform playersvoice.com.au, which launches on Thursday, Fasolo said the tipping point arrived earlier this year, towards the end of the pre-season.

"I'd wake up every morning, I'd set my alarm and I'd go, 'oh, no'. I'd sit in my car and cry for about 20 minutes. Then I'd get up the courage and I'd drive into the club and I'd get to the car park, and then I'd sit in the car and cry for another 20 minutes, get up the courage, and then I'd walk into the club, look at the doors and just go, 'yep!' – put on this big front."

Fasolo talked about the difficulty of trying to appear happy and vivacious while he was at work with Collingwood, , while being someone else entirely when he wasn't there.

The 25-year-old is one of several players in the AFL to take a break from football to deal with mental health issues.

Former Magpies teammate Travis Cloke and Western Bulldog Tom Boyd also spent periods away from the game, while Greater Western Sydney ruckman Tom Downie quit football aged 24 due to anxiety.

Fasolo said he felt as if was heading down a "slippery slope" before he decided to seek help.

"With my personality I've always been the life of the party, I've always been the bloke that's created energy, and I kept feeling that I had to keep living up to that. And that didn't help, because I'd go to the club, I'd put on this big front and then I'd walk out of the club, get into my car and then just cry all the way home and just fall in a heap. This probably went on for a few months."

Fasolo is full of praise for how Collingwood supported him. He also references the impact of coach Nathan Buckley, saying the support of the club and the coach "made my life easier".

Speaking to Fairfax Media, Buckley said Fasolo's piece was courageous and gave a raw insight into what he was going through.

"This is not exceptional and it's not sensationalist, this is real, this is human and whilst you don't hear about it as much, Alex Fasolo is the same as any other 25- or 26-year-old, getting around trying to ply their trade, only there's a little more expectation on him," Buckley said.

"The footy club's job is to support them as much as we can as people so they can explore how good the can be at their jobs."

Fasolo was lauded for his bravery when he detailed his struggles to the club.

Mental health campaigner Wayne Schwass said at the time Fasolo was likely to feel liberated after admitting he was dealing with depression, something that resonated with the Magpie.

"It was really nice to give everyone some understanding, 'cos I felt like such a shit bloke, not being able to look blokes in the eye and stuff," Fasolo said.

"When my psychiatrist stood up and spoke to the boys I was so happy. I just wanted everyone to know, like, 'I don't hate you guys. I love you so much.' 

"I'd hate to imagine where I'd be if I didn't have that amount of support around me, I think I was heading down a really slippery slope, so I'm really lucky. The coaching staff and Bucks have been just really amazing." 

Fasolo is away on holidays and will return to the Magpies with one more year on his contract, having signed a two-year extension early in 2016.

The talented forward finished the season with 29 goals from 19 games, to take his career tally to 133 from 100 games.

He finished his heartfelt first-person piece with some advice for anyone else who may find themselves in a similar situation: "Stop being in denial. Just go and see someone. And talk to your mates. Talk to anyone you can. Having close mates at the footy club and a coach like Bucks made my life easier. I also have a family that love me. I owe a lot to Mum and Dad. They copped the brunt of my bad times."

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline's 24-hour telephone counselling service on 0800 543 354 -Depression Helpline (8am to 12 midnight) - 0800 111 757 -Suicide Crisis Helpline (aimed at those in distress, or those who are concerned about the wellbeing of someone else) - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) -Youthline - 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email talk@youthline.co.nz Where to get help relating to suicide and mental health:

o Need to talk? 1737 – free call or text any time to talk to a trained counsellor
o Lifeline – 0800 543 354
o Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757
o Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
o Healthline – 0800 611 116
o Samaritans – 0800 726 666

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111. Support for victims of sexual violence: NZ Police Victim Support 0800 842 846 Rape Crisis 0800 88 33 00 Rape Prevention Education HELP (Auckland): 09 623 170

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