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Exclusive: ‘I needed help’ – Dom Bess opens up about past mental health struggles

by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

In an exclusive interview with Headstrong: An Innings With, England off-spinner Dom Bess opens up about his past struggles with mental health, recalling some of his lowest moments and explaining how he subsequently has learnt to manage his mental health. This article contains references to self-harm and depression. 

In a wide-ranging, 72-minute interview, Bess recalled one particular moment during his final year at school where he describes his state of mind at the time as being “so low.” After a moment in a geography lesson that saw Bess, who is dyslexic, stutter over his words in front of his classmates, his mental health took a turn for the worse.

“I broke down there and started crying in front of 13-14 [people],” said Bess. “You’re supposed to be one of the cool kids playing sport and all this and [I] broke down.

“Every time I went to school my anxiety went through the roof and through this anxiety, I’d get really low. For the next week I didn’t go into school, I was really struggling. I had all this pressure and my head was scrambled. I had no structure and my head was scrambled. I ended up falling further and further down this hole because I didn’t really talk to anyone as well.

“I had this problem and everyone saw it but I [just said], ‘I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine’ and people in my classes realised that I was barely ever coming in.

“I lived with my best mate, Jack Maunder – who actually plays for the Exeter Chiefs – I lived with him for five, six years. I actually stayed at home with Jack’s mum and worked all day. I just worked by myself because I couldn’t go into school.

“And as I got into it, I got a little bit more confident and went back in but I’d have good days and bad days. This is where it stems from in terms of my depression. I got so low and so worried and anxious about things that and [thinking] ‘I’m so stupid, I’m dumb, why can’t I do this?’

“I got to a point and I hope I never go to that point [again]. It was March, real crunch time in terms of exams and things like that. I remember being at home at my best mate’s house and I remember getting a knife and…I remember getting the knife obviously having really, really bad thoughts. When I had that moment, I was at the lowest. I’d gone through three months where I hadn’t really spoken about it to anyone. I was so low.

“I remember holding that knife, I put it to my arm and thinking, ‘Is this how you get out of that…is that how you release it? Is this how you release the pressure, the bad days that continuously roll?

“Thank God I didn’t do anything because I freaked myself out. I remember dropping the knife and just being in shock. I remember being sat next to the island and balling my eyes out. Their dog… dogs are the best things since sliced bread…she came over and licked me and I remember I just sat there crying, thinking, ‘I need help’.”

Later on in the interview, Bess also describes a breakdown he had in the Somerset changing room during a County Championship game in 2019. The interview, that took place prior to England’s tour of India earlier this year, also touches on the struggles of touring and playing cricket in bio-secure bubbles.

If you are struggling with mental health or thought of self-harm, Samaritans are available to talk at any time.

You can listen to the full interview with Bess on the Headstrong podcast, available to listen to on all the usual podcast hosting platforms. Headstrong: An Innings With supports the Ruth Strauss Foundation and is exclusively previewed by Wisden.com.


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