Only the ignorant will accuse Trott of cowardice

Blog Opinion

While a busted digit is very different from an issue of the mind, neither one is more debilitating that the other. Both affect your ability to do your job, in this case that job is scoring runs.

Ever since Jonathan Trott made the decision to go home from the Ashes I have watched as he was demonised, accused of cowardice and called a liar.

Last night he gave an interview trying to explain why he had come home. In many ways this excellent hour long special on Sky Sports is the issue writ large.

Joe Root had his thumb broken in the recent tour of the West Indies. There will be no expectation that he will have to explain why it was decided to not go to the World T20.

While a busted digit is very different from an issue of the mind, neither one is more debilitating that the other. Both affect your ability to do your job, in this case that job is scoring runs.

Issues of mental health are still associated with running away and being scared. If you decide that you cannot go on and need to take time to get better people will tell you that you can just carry on. They will tell you that the brave thing to do is to just push through the pain. This is as understanding and as likely as telling Joe Root to keep batting on with his broken thumb.

Jonathan Trott was struggling. It was obvious to see. So much so that the opposition spoke about it in press conferences. He says he was exhausted. That isn't the same as being tired or needing a rest.

It is being so weary that normal thought processes seem like solving Fermat's last theorem. Things that were once simple became Herculean tasks. If you have never felt that way you are very lucky. However, because you have not felt something does not make it any less real for those that have.

People are saying they have been duped. That in some way Trott and the ECB lied to them about the issue. They didn't, but again the nature of mental health problems got in the way.

There is still a stigma attached to having an issue that begins and ends in your own head. The pull your socks up brigade will tell you that what you are suffering from isn't real. As a result it is spoken of euphemistically.

The opaque way that the ECB described Trott's condition has led to many jumping to conclusions, and the snippets of information that we were given by the PR guys talked of a 'long standing stress related condition'.

This was so vague that filling in the gaps was inevitable. For many that was code for depression. Now that Trott has said that he hasn't been struggling with that particular condition people seem to think he has led them on.

Neither Trott nor the ECB have ever used the word depression. That is an assumption that has been made to fill in the information void. Now that we know Trott wasn't depressed there have been further misconceptions.

People seem to think that being exhausted to the point that Trott was isn't an issue with mental health. They couldn't be more wrong. The inability to function as a result of the state of your mind is the definition of mental health problems.

There is also the suggestion that being 'burnt out' is in some way easier to deal with than depression. While depression may take longer to recover from it is no more or less debilitating than total exhaustion.

The vast majority of mental health problems are episodic. Some rest, some tablets to give you a serotonin boost and, most importantly, time fixes the problem more often than not. The problem becomes 'clinical' when the condition returns over and over without any external cause.

Without access to Trott's medical records, and who would want that, there is no way of knowing which category this falls in to. During such an episode of mental fragility neither is more difficult to deal with than the other.

In Trott's interview with Ian Ward for Sky Sports he used some unfortunate language. He said he wasn't a 'nutcase'. Describing those with mental health issues in such terms is disrespectful, and you would hope someone close to Trott would challenge him about it.

However, in a society where such epithets are common in everyday conversations it is not surprising that Trott would say it. We have a long way to go to reach the point where we have a non-judgmental way of describing mental health problems, but we are getting there.

More than anything else, questioning Trott's decision to come home is an exercise in futility. We can never know what is going on in his mind. It was clear for all to see that he was struggling. Many were calling for him to be dropped.

Some display in machismo of staying with the squad despite the fact that he was unwell would have been a pointless exercise. Trott was unwell, he went home, he says he is getting better. Hopefully he will be back.

The most distasteful part of the Trott coverage is the accusations of cowardice. That he was in some way frightened of Mitchell Johnson. Before this Ashes series in Australia Trott had faced and bettered Mitchell Johnson.

He struggled against him in Brisbane, but so did the rest of the England team. He was facing Johnson with a cluttered mind and suffering with exhaustion. It is impressive that he did as well as he did.

Being unwell isn't being scared. It is just being sick. One day we will not find ourselves discussing this kind of issue. It will be accepted as an inevitable part of the human condition. That will be a good day.

<b>Peter Miller</b>

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