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Preston Campbell describes depression like living in a deep, dark pit and you’re freezing cold.


It’s a lonely existence when you suffer from clinical depression, a condition Campbell knows well given he has lived with it for over a decade now.


Standing in front of the entire Newcastle Knights squad and coaching staff (and later the staff) on Tuesday, the former NRL star opened up on his personal battle with the illness.


Campbell is using his story of how he tried to take his own life just months after winning the Dally M Medal in 2001 to try and encourage others to seek help if needed.


Developed with the assistance of the NRL and the Black Dog Institute, the ‘What’s your State of Mind’ presentation to NRL and Holden Cup squads hopes to inspire at least one player to come forward and gain assistance.


It's a plight Campbell is understandably passionate about and it's why he wants to use his own experiences of depression to try and make a difference for others potentially suffering in silence.


"I know a lot of guys who have had their contracts ripped up because they’ve suffered from depression and as a result have been tired or had poor communication at training," Campbell says.


"And because they don’t say anything, people just assume that they are not committed to the team or club."


As Campbell can attest, this is far from the case.


Cast your mind back to 2002 and the diminutive half was stuck in a hole of self doubt with the suffocating feeling that there was no way out.


As a result, he'd lost his wife, confidence and the ability to handle the pressures associated with being a professional footballer.


Campbell had no control and he felt like the only answer was to run his car into a tree.


"I was 24 and in the prime of my career coming off my best season," he reflects.


"I received the Dally M in September and by December the following year I was running my car into a tree because that felt like that was how I could get out of it.


"But it only made it worse though and that's how quickly it can happen.


"My wife had left me with the young ones and it was a result of me basically neglecting them.


"I didn’t understand or I didn’t know what I was going through when it happened.


"I didn’t know it was depression and I did a really good job of hiding it.


"It was definitely the toughest time of my life, but eventually I got help."

This assistance came in the form of Panthers coach John Lang, who went out of his way to take Campbell to a psychologist and ultimately set him free.


"There was a knock on the door and Johnny was at the door and he said, ‘mate come for a ride with me’," he recalls.


"He drove me into Parramatta to a psychologist and that’s what I needed, because I don’t know if I would ever got out of the depression.


"I hid it so well that no one knew what was going on, but it’s one of those things that you need to talk about all the time.


"And it’s not a matter of just going and blurting it out, there are times when you just want to sit down and reflect on things and have time to yourself.


"Whether it’s someone that you know or someone that you don’t know, it’s just a person that you feel you can trust that isn’t going to judge you.


"It’s a load off your shoulders and chest when you do get to talk about what you are feeling.


"That’s something that I just can’t tell people enough.


"I was at the peak of my career, I was getting paid well and I was doing something I love doing, but that didn’t matter.


"No matter how big or small you have to act on it."


When it comes to education and awareness of depression, the Knights are at the forefront in the NRL competition.


The Club’s junior representative coaches and managers have all obtained their Mental Health and First Aid certificates, while the senior squad have had strong links with a number of welfare agencies, especially the Samaritans that provide key mental health services in the Hunter region.


This includes a dedicated 'Welfare' game and players also attending the Mooving the Mood festival, which is a local event that celebrates National Mental Health Week.


Newcastle have had a number of players affected by depression over the years and the Club are doing everything in their power to ensure  they educate the current squad about it's devastating effects.


Veteran Knight Anthony Quinn also helps out in his role as an NRL apprentice mentor, while recently retired Club legend Danny Buderus is on deck to offer any support for the current crop of players.


Campbell has no doubts this continued work within club's will help make a difference when it comes to the identification and prevention of depression.


"I've already had guys come forward and seek help," he says.


"I love to hear that and that’s why I do it.


"I’m doing this to make a difference, but also if someone is feeling down then there is no harm in going to talk to somebody.


"Because the last thing we want is young blokes committing suicide like last year.


"That is just so sad.


"It blows my mind away when people say that the biggest killer of our young people in Australia is suicide."


It's a crippling statistic and it's why Campbell will continue to tell his tale with the goal of helping others deal with depression.


"There are people who live in their lives with no confidence and that’s what I did for a long time," Campbell admits.


"Now I’m a completely different person in that I’m more confident and I’m not hiding anything anymore.


"I’m still the same Preston, but I just feel like there is more to live for."


Campbell hopes his personal story will inspire others to think the same way.