Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff was one of the most popular cricketers of his generation and a key player in England’s famous 2005 Ashes winning team.
Now’s he’s turning his hand to acting when he stars alongside Jodie Prenger and Sam Bailey in Kay Mellor’s Fat Friends The Musical, which opens at the Grand Theatre, on November 7.
Following his retirement in 2010, the Lancashire-born former cricket star has spoken about his struggles with depression in the hope that greater discussion of mental illness can put an end to being labelled a “stigma”.
It comes as the Yorkshire Evening Post calls on people across the city to help make Leeds mentally healthy as part of our #SpeakYourMind campaign which launched a new focus this month.
Former BBC Sports Personality of the Year winner Flintoff has also made a BBC TV documentary examining the impact of depression among sports professionals.
He said: “Doing that documentary helped me get my diagnosis and that was a relief because it meant I knew what it was.”
Now, as he prepares to make his stage acting debut in Leeds, Mr Flintoff is backing the Yorkshire Evening Post’s #SpeakYourMind campaign.
“One thing I would say is that talking about it doesn’t half help, it’s the first step towards getting better and being happy.
“I can honestly say that I’m so much happier now. I wouldn’t be in the position I am if I’d continued to bottle it all up and not talk about it.”
He says he found coping with his depression “exhausting” at times during his playing days.
“Now I know what it is, that it’s going to pass and if it doesn’t I know I can get help.”
The YEP first launched our mental health campaign, to combat social stigma in Leeds, in October last year.
And this month, we launched a renewed focus for our campaign to coincide with World Mental Health Day, in a bid to encourage people across the city to become mentally healthy.
Over the next year we are going to help in raising awareness and understanding of mental health problems, providing people with information to spot the signs and symptoms and pointing out where sufferers can get help.
Follow the campaign by using the #SpeakYourMind hashtag.