Monty Panesar health: Cricketer on ‘signs’ of deteriorating mental health ‘you can spot’

Monty Panesar hits back at Yorkshire cricket club racial slur ruling

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Having been a part of the victorious squads of 2009, 2010-11 and 2013, behind closed doors Panesar was struggling with his mental health. After speaking publicly about his paranoia and anxiety, the cricketer also admitted that his low confidence and struggles away from the sport contributed to him stepping away. In a past interview, Panesar said: “I was in denial that things weren’t right with me and I probably fell slightly out of love with the game.”

Since speaking out about his own personal experience, Panesar has gone on to help others, sharing the tips and tricks he uses to keep his mental health in check.

“The quicker you open up the quicker you will get the support and the help,” he said, while calling on cricketers to reach out to team mates who seem withdrawn.

“The signs that you can spot in other people in a dressing room is if they are very isolated and don’t engage with the whole team.

“Once a cricketer gets isolated, they are signs that you really should look after that person. As sportspeople, you pride yourself on being mentally strong and ruthless, all the attributes that lead to competitive performance.”

In the past, Panesar has been diagnosed with depression, paranoia and schizophrenia, three mental health conditions that can cause serious and detrimental effects on an individual’s life.

The first, paranoia, is thinking and feeling like you are being threatened in some way, even if there is no evidence that you are. According to Mind, the mental health charity, paranoid thoughts could also be exaggerated suspicions. For example, someone made a nasty comment about you once, and you believe that they are directing a hate campaign against you.

In some cases, paranoia can be a symptom of paranoid schizophrenia, another mental health disorder that affects approximately 24 million people worldwide. Schizophrenia is a complicated mental health problem which can start suddenly or develop gradually over time.

Although each person’s experience is unique, a doctor might suggest you have schizophrenia if you experience some of the following:

  • A lack of interest in things
  • Feeling disconnected from your emotions
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Wanting to avoid people
  • Hallucinations, such as hearing voices or seeing things others don’t
  • Delusions (strong beliefs that others don’t share), including paranoid delusions
  • Disorganised thinking and speech
  • Not wanting to look after yourself.

Some symptoms of schizophrenia also overlap with depression, one of the most common mental health disorders in the UK. Mind explains that depression is a low mood that lasts for a long time and starts to affect your everyday life.

When diagnosed, individuals may be told they either have mild, moderate or severe depression. This diagnosis also describes what sort of impact the condition will have on your life and what symptoms individuals may suffer from.

Common symptoms of depression include the following:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, or pessimism
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy or fatigue
  • Moving or talking more slowly
  • Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment.

Having to come to terms with his own mental health battles, Panesar continued to say: “My parents became worried. They wanted me to see someone. I had always thought strong people couldn’t have a problem. I was always the guy who would win games, who had everything in order.

“It was a guy called Peter Gilmore who said I was suffering from paranoia/schizophrenia and that shocked me massively. Mike Brearley [former England cricket captain] told me to be careful about the things I was saying to myself. Some experts thought I’d never get better but I knew I could fight it, come through it.

“It was difficult. Everyone was doubting me. I spoke to [former wicket keeper turned mentor] Neil Burns and he told me everyone thought I’d gone off the rails. He told me there were so many rumours and I had to put the record straight.”

The cricketer’s symptoms became so severe that he struggled to engage in conversation whilst at a coffee shop, an incident that motivated him to get help for his mental health.

Treatment for mental health conditions, such as the above, typically involve a combination of talking therapy and medication. Firstly, talking therapy such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) helps individuals to examine how they think and to turn negative patterns of thought into more positive ones.

Medications such as antidepressants on the other hand can include SSRIs (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors), which mainly work by blocking the re-uptake of serotonin into the nerve cell that released it. This means that the serotonin acts for longer on your brain and body.

In order to treat schizophrenia, individuals may be offered antipsychotic drugs to reduce their symptoms. Antipsychotics may reduce paranoid thoughts or make individuals feel less threatened by them.

If, like Panesar, individuals want to avoid taking medication, other treatment methods are available. “I don’t need medication. I don’t drink. I don’t have good and bad days. All of those things have gone,” the cricketer said in 2019.

“There was a moment I was at Northampton about 18 months ago and I looked around and thought, ‘Wow, those paranoid thoughts are not there any more.’ I knew then Monty was back. I’m going to be a cricketer again. I’m going to do it.”

For mental health support contact Samaritans on 116 123.

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