HIGHLY regarded AFL executive Darren Birch is taking personal leave to deal with a mental health issue.  

Birch is expected to be on leave for 6-8 weeks.  

He is the general manager of 'growth, digital and audiences' and was overseeing a structural realignment of AFL Media, Marketing, AFLW, Programs and Market Development, Technology and Events, Match Day and Customer Experience divisions.  

AFL chief Gillon McLachlan praised Birch for his courage and handling of the matter.  

"Darren has lived with the daily challenge of managing his mental health. He has shared this previously with the broader business and has a strong view that mental illness should be openly and honestly discussed and it is OK to ask for help," McLachlan said in a statement.  

"With our support, we believe it is best that he takes some time away to concentrate on his health and getting well again.  

"Darren has been very courageous in addressing this and I am proud of him for coming to see me this week, and asking for time off to get well."