THERE is a view in the community that AFL footballers are bulletproof.

If they're paid millions of dollars to do what they love, how could they be vulnerable? How could they be depressed? 

But money and material possessions don't equate to happiness, and right now Lance Franklin – the biggest and highest paid star in the game – is vulnerable.

Buddy has taken time away from his paid profession to deal with a personal challenge and it should highlight to us all that if Franklin can be dealing with this, anyone is susceptible. 

It can be a star footballer, it can be a politician, it can be a mother, a butcher, a student at school. Mental illness doesn't discriminate.  

Buddy battling mental illness, epilepsy

I'm not prepared to speak on behalf of Lance, but in my own experience when you're playing elite level sport, it is a very public role you play. Your performances are being critiqued consistently. 

We have a media industry that works 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so everything the players are doing is being analysed. Social media is also an issue for footballers. 

It's reasonable to assume that environment can sometimes exacerbate some of the stresses an individual may be experiencing in his private life. 

Our greatest assets in any walk of life are people, but we often see the athlete as a performer, losing sight of the man behind the footballer. 

We have to find a balance where we acknowledge and applaud them for what they do on the footy field, but support them and empower them as people. 

Once upon a time you would never acknowledge a player was dealing with a mental illness in a football environment, but I'm coming into contact with it more and more.   

I've advocated for more inclusion around mental health for a long time and our industry is starting to be more open and confident that its people can ask for help. 

I have great optimism for Buddy. I'm optimistic because I know that if you find the courage to reach out and ask for help there is an incredible amount of professional support and resources available. 

I've experienced mental illness myself over a long time, but I've also seen friends and people I've worked with put in enormous work once they recognise they've got a mental illness. 

Over varying time spans they've got their life back and enjoyed everything life has to offer. 

Some have experienced one bout of depression and it never returns, but I also know people who manage it and live with it on a daily basis. 

They will probably have to do that for the rest of their lives. 

Still, with the right support, the right treatment and being open and honest about it, you can live a fulfilling, happy, successful life, whatever you choose to do, as long as you've got that infrastructure around you. 

Given the time to address his challenges, Lance will get to a position where he feels comfortable enough to reintroduce himself to footy.

For now, his health should sit above all football considerations as the priority.

Anyone seeking counselling or help with mental health issues can contact or call 1300 224 636

Wayne Schwass is a mental health advocate. He played 282 games with North Melbourne and the Sydney Swans and suffered depression through his career