Known for giving terse interviews and following champion coach Wayne Bennett from club to club, Darius Boyd didn’t endear himself to everyone. In hindsight, behaviour that could seem rude or immature was just stuff you do as an introverted perfectionist who’s feeling lost. To this day Boyd doesn’t know who his dad is. Two relatives who stepped into the role both died when he was a boy.
In his teens, Boyd’s mother was hospitalised with depression and vanished from his life for the next nine years. In 2014, while battling a form slump at the Newcastle Knights, Boyd was knocked further off kilter by the catastrophic spinal injury to teammate Alex McKinnon. His moods darkened to the point where his wife, Kayla, walked out on him, prompting the tormented star to check into a clinic.
What do you think caused your depression?
My football, mainly. I put so much emphasis on it. And when it wasn’t going the way I’d planned, I found that really hard to deal with. If we had a game on the Friday night and I played badly or the team lost or both, I wouldn’t leave the house until I had to go to training on the Monday. I didn’t want to see anyone. I didn’t want to go out in public and have fans say, “What happened? or “You played crap”.
What made you check yourself into rehab?
My wife left and said, “Look, this is not a good relationship to be in – you need to sort yourself out”. That was a pretty big wake-up call. I’d been seeing a therapist once or twice a month for two years before that, but it wasn’t enough. There were too many things to talk about; too much to deal with.
Did the stereotype of the “tough footballer” make it harder to admit you were miserable?
I guess so. There was a time when I never spoke about my problems. I always shied away from talking about feelings. But when it got to the point where Kayla left, I knew I needed help. Football had been my whole life, but it was one of the things bringing me down. In the end it was an easy decision. I didn’t care what people thought.
What are the keys to recovering from depression?
Being open to anything and being willing to change. I’ve spoken to other people who are struggling, and my advice is always that you’ve got to want to do it. If you’re ready to learn and to better yourself, then you’ll get what you need out of therapy.
Is your depression beaten or is it always lurking?
It’s something you always have to watch out for. I have moments, sometimes days, when I don’t think the best thoughts or I’m down on myself. But I’ve learnt better ways to get out of those thoughts and feelings. I’m giving talks in the community and you get a really special feeling when you speak to kids about important issues. That was something I struggled with: I didn’t really like myself. I wanted to change and I’m happy with the person I am now. I can walk around with my head high, instead of looking down all the time.
The Numbers Game
1 in 8
The number of men who will suffer depression during their lifetime
The most common age period for a person to experience their first episode of mental illness
The percentage of the roughly 2,500 suicides in Australia each year that are committed by men
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