RICHMOND superstar Dustin Martin has revealed he began to struggle with anxiety and depression in 2018.
In an interview with The Age, Martin described the "weird empty feeling" he experienced throughout last year which led him to seek professional help.
"I haven't told too many people this, but I found 2018 to be really hard," Martin said.
"I woke with a weird empty feeling inside and it was really strange. I had everything I wanted and everything I dreamt of, but I didn't feel fulfilled or happy. I didn't know what was going on."
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The challenges he faced with his mental health came in a year after he became one of the most marketable players in the AFL following a career-best season that saw him become a premiership player, win the Norm Smith Medal and take home his first Brownlow.
"It made me realise what's important in life," Martin said.
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"Speaking up initially gave me more anxiety and depression as I kept wondering why I was feeling this way. I came to realise that the materialistic things in life don't rate; it's the small things that matter most."
Martin said he began to feel pressure to live up to the high standards he had set for himself throughout 2017.
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"I started worrying about what others would say about me if I wasn't at that level anymore. I realised it doesn't matter what people think; if I just do my best, that's all I can do. I stopped worrying and I was suddenly free. It was small guided steps, but I learned to live my best life and not take on board what others think of me," Martin said.
"Mental health is a huge issue not only in sport, but in society. I would encourage anyone who is struggling with something big or small to have the courage to ask for help."
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Martin said he had developed an appreciation for yoga to relax his mind and body, while he has taken up reading books in his spare time which he says adds perspective to his life.
The 27-year-old said he was still getting used to being famous.
"Fame hasn't changed me," Martin said.
"It's nice when friends who I haven't seen in ages say to me, 'Dustin, you haven't changed'.
"I'm still me, and I separate myself from Dustin Martin the footballer."
The AFL is in the process of hiring a mental health officer after identifying the challenges players face in that space as the biggest issue in football.
If you or someone you know is experiencing emotional distress, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 (24 hours/seven days) or chat to a crisis supporter online at lifeline.org.au (7pm – midnight)
If life is in danger, please call 000.