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‘I just burst into tears’ – Dom Bess opens up on ‘breakdown’ in 2019 County Championship match

by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

Speaking on the Headstrong podcast, Dom Bess has opened up on an incident in his days at Somerset, when he had a “breakdown” during a 2019 County Championship match against Yorkshire.

In a wide-ranging interview, Bess, who has taken 36 wickets and two five-fors in 14 Tests for England, opened up on his struggles with anxiety and depression while at school, and explained how prolonged periods away from home in the early stages of his county career contributed to him feeling depressed.

“It was the end of September,” he said. “I remember having about two months where I was just really down. I didn’t say anything to anyone, and there was that build-up, falling down the spiral. It wasn’t my anxiety because I felt like I could deal with that. It was more the depression, it was just the bad days, the waking up. ‘Ugh really? What am I going to do today?’”

“I remember I was lucky our psychologist at the time, Chris Bodman, was there, and we one the toss and batted. They took us into the changing rooms. In behind there is where the second team coach’s and the academy director’s office is. I remember speaking to him and he said ‘you don’t seem yourself’ and I just burst into tears. I burst into tears for about 30, 40 minutes. I completely lost myself. I was telling him how I feel, how I was getting these feelings back, and I was really struggling.”

Bess made 15 in the first innings, but explained how even as the game was going on, cricket was the furthest thing from his mind.

“I had a heart to heart for about an hour, 45 minutes, and I completely forgot the cricket was going on,” he said. “I think we were four down, I was bawling my eyes out, and I remember one of the lads texting me, ‘Where are you?’ I’d forgotten about any sort of sport, it was all about my wellbeing, my mental health. And I sat there thinking, ‘I’ve got to go pad up’. I remember being sat there, in the changing rooms, I’d just been crying my eyes out, obviously really red puffy eyes. I was strapping my pads on, trying to get into the game. Anyway I get in, probably faced about 40 balls and I remember chipping one to extra cover, walking off into the changing room, and as I was unstrapping my pads, all this emotion, and a little bit of relief, feeling ‘I’m really struggling’ and I started crying.”

It was at this point that his Somerset teammates got the first inkling that something was wrong.

“George Bartlett and Tom Banton were in the changing rooms and they were opposite me, I was head down, bawling my eyes out, and they were like ‘surely you’re not crying because you just got out?’ I was like ‘Mate, honestly I could not care about getting out’. And I said to them ‘I’m really struggling, really really struggling’. I didn’t know how to explain it to them.”

He describes the support from Somerset, both during the game and before it, as “phenomenal”.

“From there I went straight up to the head coach, Jason Kerr, and I’ve got a great relationship with him. ‘Mate, I’m really struggling, I’ve been really struggling for two-three months.’” Bess said. “They knew what my struggles were because I was in the academy, and when I had that incident, I opened up to those guys and said my problems, and the support that I got from those guys was phenomenal. I said ‘JK, I’m really really struggling’, and he said ‘mate, forget about the cricket, we don’t care about what you do. You can honestly go away now, we can say you’re struggling, we don’t want you in around it.’

“Anyway, the next morning, I went to see James Kennedy, our doctor, just to have a catch-up with him, and I missed the warm-up, and in the warm-up Jason said to the whole group, ‘Lads, Bessy’s really struggling at the moment. You’ll know that he’s not here at the moment, he’s going to come in a bit later, he’s just speaking to Kenners.’ He explained the situation, explained it to Bart and Bants who had obviously seen me bawling my eyes out.

“I was so anxious to go back into that changing room but everyone got their arm round me, gave me hugs. The talk about being manly, no emotion, all this, the amount of bullshit that is. James Hildreth came up and gave me a hug, and that was such a big thing for me. Hildy’s an absolute club legend and he was like ‘I don’t want to ever see you like that.’ And then we go to Tres [Marcus Trescothick]. Obviously Tres has opened up about his mental health, and I’ve spoken to him a lot, and the way that he has helped me, it is so normal. I think it’s so important to tell the story. When I talk about my mentality, when I talk about my positivity, there’s a reason behind that and the reason is because I know where I can get myself into.”

Bess, who has since transferred from Somerset to Yorkshire in pursuit of more first-class game time, explained how he has now found ways to manage his mental health struggles.

“I know, come October, there will be days when I really struggle, because there’s no cricket, there’s no structure, and I’ll be sat there thinking, what do I do with myself now? The two things I do is, I’ll obviously train really hard, which is not great because it’s supposed to be our rest period, but I’ve got to do something, or I’ll go on loads of holidays with all my mates or my girlfriend. And that will be a three-week period when I know I’m doing something, and that’s how I’m dealing with it. I’m really anxious for what’s after cricket, because there’s that unknown, but again, I flip it in terms of, I could do whatever I want.”


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