Wayne Schwass is a decorated and celebrated former AFL player. But what we didn’t know throughout his career, was that he was struggling with a secret he felt that he had to keep.

The former North Melbourne and Sydney Swans player spent 14 years in elite sport, but throughout 10 of those years he struggled with mental health conditions.

In fact, throughout his career, only four people were aware of his condition: his wife, two club doctors and his psychiatrist.

Now, Schwass is the CEO of Puka Up, and is intent on creating environments where everyone feels comfortable and safe to speak about their mental health. Schwass spoke with Erin and Soda this morning about his mental health struggles.

Listen to the full chat with Wayne Schwass here:

“I was convinced that once people knew, they’d lose respect, they’d judge me poorly and it was more important to protect what people thought said and did toward me, than it was to prioritise my own health,” said Schwass to Erin and Soda.

“That’s probably one of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned that what is the most important thing is our own individual health, and that’s what I choose to do now.”

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“The strategy was very simple, and I got very good at this. I would get to training or a game as late as I could. Because the less time I had with teammates, the smaller chance of me losing control of my emotions, that was number one.”

“What I did was I invested most of my emotional effort into a façade. I don’t want anyone who might be listening to this today to make my mistakes. If you’re not coping, and you’re not well, that’s okay. What’s not okay is to compromise your health and wellbeing. Prioritise it by asking for help and getting the necessary help that you can.”