PROFESSIONAL CRICKETERS' TRUST PRESS RELEASE
Trust beneficiary draws on own experience during Mental Health Awareness Week.
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Simon Cusden has listed practicing meditation and reconnecting with nature amongst the methods he uses to stay on top of his own mental health, as he sat down to speak with the Professional Cricketers’ Trust during Mental Health Awareness Week 2021.
The 36-year-old has struggled with mental health problems including addiction throughout almost his entire adult life, but has been on the road to recovery during the past five years, identifying methods and techniques to make sure he looks after his own physical and emotional wellbeing.
Cusden came close to suicide in 2016, jumping into a river with a rock tied to his leg, but managed to rescue himself before reaching out to the Trust for support. Within 20 minutes of that call, Cusden was receiving specialist counselling provided by the players’ charity.
Looking back, the former fast bowler, who made 13 professional appearances during a brief playing career with Derbyshire and his native Kent, wishes that he had taken steps to protect his own mental health before it was almost too late, and in particular during the early, uncertain stages of his playing career.
“Being a young cricketer is a really challenging time,” Cusden said. “If those techniques (meditation and mindfulness) were taught to young players, then I think that would be really beneficial. It teaches you that cricket is just a game and it’s not that serious.
“Even the most successful cricketers are real people with doubts and fears. Cricket falls away and I had no idea about that when I played the game. I had no idea that anything existed beyond tomorrow, the next game and my cricket career.
“I think my advice to the younger guys would be that there is life after cricket. You watch high performers make the most of their ability because they’re so focussed, and you do start to think that they’re burning their bridges.
“The expense of that mindset is pretty big, because one day you wake up and you’re injured, or you’re not as good as you thought you were.
“Cricket gives you great relationships in the changing room, but I wish I’d had a broader view when I was playing.”
After falling out of professional cricket and into a life-threatening alcohol addiction, Cusden has now adopted numerous techniques including meditation to help him avoid following a similar path in the future.
He is hoping to pass on his advice to younger cricketers during this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, a national annual campaign founded by the Mental Health Foundation, to help them to avoid the same fate that befell him.
“There’s a part of me which wishes that I’d known what I know now back then."
“Initially it was about unpacking addiction and anxiety, but now for me it’s all about practice.
“Meditation isn’t that difficult – it’s important to take responsibility and look after yourself. I enjoy sharing that message, and the more that I share it, the more it strengthens my recovery.
“The cornerstone of my recovery is to sit down for five minutes, maybe longer, and do what is in reality not a mystical, but a very practical practice. Everyone thinks they couldn’t possibly meditate because they’re not on top of the Himalayas, they don’t have a shaved head and they don’t know how to do it!
“I think sportspeople should be taught this from an early age. They are put under so much pressure and the very best sportspeople are meditative – they don’t get carried away.
“There’s a part of me which wishes that I’d known what I know now back then. All my coaches would say that to me, but when you’re young you just need those life experiences to be open to listening to that advice.”
The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is nature, and Cusden has also listed reconnecting with open spaces and fresh air amongst his top mental health tips.
Cricket, as he explains, can also be the perfect sport to help you clear your mind.
“Nature is really important to me. I’ve spent a lot of time in Bali and the people there are so happy and healthy, so I’ve learned a lot from them.
“Having your feet firmly on the ground is so important. I work with young boys who have mental health issues, and I just think they need some fresh air, to go for a walk, and that’s what cricket’s amazing for.
“You’re out in the sun, your feet are on the ground, you’re sweating and moving your body, so I think the sport is an amazing thing to connect to nature.”