Former AFL star Brock McLean has opened up about his mental health battle which resulted in a suicide attempt and bipolar diagnosis in 2019.
McLean represented Melbourne and Carlton during a stellar 11-year AFL career, but was delisted from the Blues at the end of the 2014 season. The midfielder played 157 games, scoring 76 goals.
Speaking on the Herald Sun’s Sacked podcast, McLean discussed the anxiety and trauma that followed the conclusion of his professional career.
“My self-worth was tied to what I was doing, and when I was a footballer, I had a high self-worth,” the 34-year-old said.
“So when I finished footy, I was at the bottom rung, and it got to the point in my life where I was like, ‘I can’t do this any more,’ and I tried to kill myself.
“It was in August 2017, I won’t talk about the method, because that can stoke ideas, but I spend two or three days in ICU in St Vincent’s Hospital and another two or three days in the general ward while I got over my attempted suicide ailments, and then spent three weeks in the Melbourne Clinic, a psychiatric ward. Even then, I didn’t fully grasp how unwell I was.”
After his suicide attempt, McLean resorted to alcohol to combat his mental illness, which inevitably escalated his erratic behaviour.
“So I got out, got off the grog for a few months and once I had a drink the old habits came back,” McLean said.
“I was in a relationship where I was really unhappy, but couldn’t bring myself to break up with her because I didn’t want to break her heart, and everything came to a head because I ended up cheating on her. She found out and bang, I was back to square one again. I went on a weekend bender.”
McLean also suffered from bulimia towards the end of his career, and outlined his “regimented” dietary habits on the Sacked podcast.
“I was bulimic for two or three years while I was playing towards the end of my career,” McLean said.
“I developed a story in my head that the coaches wanted me to come back at 83kg because they thought it would help with my leg speed and so diligent as I was I got down to 83kg and I was barely eating anything.
“My diet was so regimented, I was stripping bits of fat off meat and making sure that I weighted food and did all this type of stuff.
“A month of eating like that it gets to a point where you’re like, ‘S***, I need some junk food, I need to have a bit of a binge.’
“It got to the point where I needed junk food or a binge so like alcohol I would go on a food binge and eat s***. I would eat my dinner and say, ‘I feel like something naughty’, and go out and get some chocolate, then I would be, ‘F***, you can’t do that, you are going to put on weight.’
“So that’s when I started to make myself throw up. It got to a point where … I was doing it every night. It was quite consistent throughout sort of 2012 and 13’, 2010 and 11’ was probably when it started.
“I never truly got over it until I started doing therapy.”
Thankfully, McLean is recovering well, and believes he’s currently in the best mental state of his life.
“I don’t wish anything had been done differently, I don’t have any regrets, this has all been part of my journey,” McLean said.
“I’m a firm believer in everything happens for a reason and that I needed to go on this journey to fully understand who I really was and to learn to say, ‘Mate, it’s OK that you have a mental health issue, it’s OK that you’ve made all these mistakes in your life, it’s OK that everything has happened the way it is.’”