Mental health ‘challenging’ for AFL clubs

Alex Fasolo’s depression struggle reinforces the need for clubs to help players manage the scrutiny of AFL life, Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson says.

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Collingwood forward Fasolo this week revealed he was suffering depression and would take a short break from football to manage the condition.

The 24-year-old will miss Sunday’s clash with Fremantle in his home state of Western Australia, and it is unclear whether he will be available for the traditional Queen’s Birthday match against Melbourne the following week.

Lance Franklin, Mitch Clark, Wayne Schwass and Nathan Thompson are among past and present players who have battled mental health issues in recent years, and veteran coach Clarkson says social media has added to the challenge.

“We’re confronting a different sort of landscape all the time and, unfortunately, some find that really, really difficult to cope with – that increased scrutiny and, in some cases, critique,” Clarkson said on Wednesday.

“(For) professional footballers, that makes it particularly demanding, challenging and, in some cases, confronting. It’s very, very difficult to manage and, as a football club, it’s just another layer of stuff that we have to help try to manage with our players and our staff.

“It isn’t easy but just bit by bit, we try to do the best we can to assist these players with what is a pretty tough environment.”

Clarkson said the AFL had provided a positive platform for awareness of gender inequality and issues affecting indigenous players, and he hoped it could have the same effect for mental health awareness.

Fasolo has kicked 118 goals in 91 games for Collingwood since his 2011 debut, including two in the Magpies’ 45-point victory on Sunday over Brisbane.

The Magpies have said Fasolo will continue to train and prepare “with the expectation of a swift return to playing”.

Australian readers seeking support and information about depression can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.