‘The day I almost jumped’: Sam Thaiday’s suicide bombshell
AS the Queensland State of Origin team prepare for their epic challenge, a former Maroons great has revealed he hid suicidal thoughts behind a mask that fooled the world.
Sam Thaiday, widely viewed as the wisecracking larrikin he always appeared to be in his 16-year career at the Broncos, has bravely bared his soul about the dark thoughts he kept well away from public view.
Hoping he can help others speak out, Thaiday has revealed he had major self-esteem issues as a youngster and some of the challenges have returned in retirement.
Thaiday has pulled away the curtain in a four-part series in a We Are Human Podcast available on Apple podcasts or Spotify as part of mental health month.
Thaiday revealed he also suffered anxiety and confusion over his mixed-race background, saying "he was too black to be white and too white to be black.''
The 32-Test forward reveals how he battled dyslexia as a child to the point it made him severely question his self-worth.
As a 12-year-old he was sent to a special education department to learn English.
"I felt like turning left and bolting … I felt dumb and worthless and thinking what is wrong with me?'' Thaiday said on the podcast conducted with his wife Rachel.
"I rebelled. I pushed back on everything.
"I hid behind comedy and humour and being the big loveable Sam but inside I fell apart. I still shit myself when I have to read something in front of people. I hate live reads on radio because I don't want to stuff it up and people think I am dumb.''
NATIONAL 24/7 CRISIS SERVICES
As a 15-year-old schoolboy Thaiday was so depressed he contemplated taking his own life.
"I got home from school and got my footy and told mum I was just going to kick it at the park but instead of going to the park I rode to the dam and there was a hole in the fence and I sat there quietly … blank. I did not care for much at that time. It did not matter whether I fell or I jumped.
"I kept on fighting with myself thinking no one would care if I jumped. I did not feel as if anyone would miss me at all. No one would come and look for me. Why would they? I shit myself when I saw the sun going down because I had to be home when the sun went down.''
Thaiday kept the experience to himself until recently visiting Brisbane therapist Cynthia Morton.
Soon after the visit he wrote a poem about it called A Boy On The Wall and has decided to make his experience public in the hope he will benefit others as he acquires the tools to help him with his challenges.
"On some days I am super confused with what I want to do with my life but it is also good I can see that struggle now and I know what to do with it," he said.
"It is an opportunity to grow and move and break that cycle.''
The Boy On The Wall poem includes lines such as "to the boy on the wall … I don't think you will jump. I can feel your heart beat. I can feel that throat lump.''
Thaiday said: "I had bottled up my feelings for so long not knowing how to express them. I told her (the therapist) my story and I left that session somewhat motivated to tell people my story. Hopefully by getting my story out I can encourage people to speak up.
"I still have moments now where I second guess myself. Self doubt is the loudest voice in your head. That kind of was an ongoing thing throughout my whole life. I want to learn and grow and get better to make that the quietest voice in side my head. I see myself right now as being a little bit lost and lonely at times.''
Thaiday describes himself as having a mixed race background as the son of a Torres Strait Islander father and "white Australian (mother) who has always questioned when she has Indigenous background.''
"I was somewhat confused … I was too black to be white and too white to be black.''
"That was an internal struggle for me as well. Not that I wanted to fit into a box but I wanted to know where my place was. Kids always want to know 'what am I?'' and I did not know what I was.''
Footballers tend to be guarded about the insecurities they face in retirement but Thaiday candidly admits they become a major issue.
"It is still a roller coaster. I am unsure still to the point to what I should be doing next," he said.
"We are taught to be gladiators - have your shield and sword and hide behind it if you need to.'
"It is so hard when you are in an environment where you sacrifice so much for the success of something it becomes a massive part of your life. When it stops and ends, you question yourself and who you are without that.''
Click here to listen to the We Are Human podcast.
If you or someone you know needs help, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Originally published as 'The day I almost jumped': Sam Thaiday's suicide bombshell