A BATTLE with depression he did not even realise he was fighting was the catalyst for Wentworth farmer Sholto Douglas to restart an annual cricket match to help raise awareness around mental health.
Busy with transitioning his south-western NSW property, Garston Station,’ from traditional cropping to an almond plantation, Sholto did not see the signs in himself that he was struggling with mental illness.
It all came to a head, with a positive result.
“After struggling for a number of years in very dry conditions, we decided to move the farm away from traditional crops to an almond plantation,” Sholto said.
“We were not making much money and as the father of five children, I was really feeling the pressure financially.
“The family were going to Mildura to celebrate my eldest twins’ 13th birthday and I could not even get out of bed.
“I didn’t think there was a problem.
“It was not until a few weeks later when I was playing tennis in my regular Saturday match that my mate said something.
“He asked me if I had any plans for dinner and if I did to cancel them because I was going to his place.
“We spoke about the changes he had seen in my behaviour and I thought ‘what is this guy on about?’
“After a couple of hours of talking, he convinced me something was wrong and I reached out for help.
“At the time I did not feel suicidal, but you don’t know where that road could have led.”
With successful treatment, Sholto is now helping others.
In the past, the small township of Pooncarie and The Anabranch held an annual cricket match but it slowly dwindled out.
Now Sholto has restarted the tradition and is using the match to help raise awareness around mental health.
“I thought there is more to life than farming 24/7,” he said.
“A few years back, a local cricket club at Coomealla was given funding for lights at their ground.
“So I thought, ‘why not play the match under lights?’
“In January it gets very hot so it makes sense to play under lights.
“I wanted to make it more than just a match as I wanted to help people who may be battling depression like I was.
“I made contact with RAHMP and Marie Kelly in Ivanhoe.
“We organised to have an information session before the first match.
“The session was more about raising awareness, both in individuals, and their family and friends.
“While we wanted individuals to be aware, it was more about helping brothers, sisters, wives, fathers and mothers to be able to spot the signs in someone they care for who is struggling.
“Luckily for me, my tennis partner was the local pharmacist and he knew the signs to look for.
“Marie spoke and to her amazement, she had a large crowd interested in her talk.
“I had also been in contact with The Baggy Blues through the Australian Cricketers' Association (ACA).
“Phil Emery and Len Pascoe came down for the inaugural Men’s Mental Health Awareness Cricket Match.
“Phil has been to both of the matches so far and will hopefully be here for the next match in January.
“The Baggy Blues, who are aligned with RAMHP, have been very supportive of what I am trying to achieve here.
“They spend time talking to locals about mental health awareness, play the match and hold a junior coaching clinic, which is great.
“Former NSW player and media personality Gavin Robertson was here last year where we probably had 200 to 250 people come to the event.”
Sholto has seen first-hand the effect his event has had.
“The Monday after the first match, I received a call from someone who had been there,” he said.
“They told me they were struggling and needed some help.
“I have spoken to them recently and they are in a much better place - that’s a big win in my book.”