Former Essendon coach James Hird leaves the Supreme Court in Melbourne on February 17 last year.
Former Essendon coach James Hird leaves the Supreme Court in Melbourne on February 17 last year. TRACEY NEARMY

Hird opens up on overdose and depression

ESSENDON great James Hird has revealed he was in deep clinical depression and had reached breaking point when he overdosed on sleeping pills in January.

In a column for the Herald Sun, Hird opened up on his five weeks in a mental health facility, describing the experience as life-changing.

"Everyone has a breaking point and I reached mine after years of continual stress," he wrote.

"I am not ashamed to say that I needed the care I received and without it, I do not know where I would be. Depression is more than just sadness."

"My first call to beyondblue in 2015 was an admission I needed help but it took until January 4, 2017, when I took too many sleeping tablets, to truly accept that I could not dig myself out of this hole.

"Certainly, it (his time in care) was no holiday camp but provided a supportive, welcoming, safe and caring environment and allowed me to receive the treatment I needed."

Before his overdose, Hird had been under enormous pressure over his central role in the Essendon supplements saga, which resulted in 12-month suspensions for 34 of the club's past and present players, and an AFL-imposed year-long coaching ban for Hird.

He returned to the coaching role in 2015 but fell on his sword before season's end.

He described depression as an "all-encompassing, debilitating, real sickness that strikes many people".

"In 2002, I fractured my skull and required multiple metal plates in my head. I, for one, would prefer multiple skull fractures to the feeling of deep clinical depression," he wrote.

Hird paid tribute to his wife, Tania, for her support.

"I have never seen or witnessed a person as strong as Tania," he wrote.

"Her unconditional, all-encompassing love, positivity, strength and ability to keep rising to the challenges that have been put in front of our family has been extraordinary.

"Over the past four years, I have been short-tempered, distant, hard to live with, rude at times and ill.

"Tania, my children, my extended family and friends have loved, supported and cared for me when I didn't deserve their support.

"It is the unconditional love and care alongside the professional attention that has given me a second chance at life. I am an extremely lucky man."

With Essendon welcoming back 10 players who missed last year because of doping bans, Hird admitted to feeling excitement.

"The Essendon theme for this year is about their comeback story. I can't wait to watch the comeback for many reasons," he said.

"But mostly to see the smile on the Essendon supporters' faces ... bring on 2017 and the year of the comeback."

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