Ahead of the 2022 Vitality Blast Finals day, which supports the Professional Cricketers’ Trust, former Somerset all-rounder Arul Suppiah bravely revealed his battle with anorexia.
Eating disorders rob childhoods, destroy relationships and tear families apart, and Suppiah has experienced firsthand the devastation the disease can cause.
The 38-year-old, who played 276 professional matches and once held the world record for best bowling tricks in T20 cricket, was just 29 when chronic knee injuries forced him into retirement, and he quickly embarked on a second career teaching accounting and business studies.
Four years later, however, the interest in being healthier has unfortunately become an obsession, leading to an eating disorder and changes in his behavior patterns.
Around 1.25 million people in the UK suffer from eating disorders, many of them in secret. They are of all ages, genders and backgrounds – eating disorders do not discriminate and, tragically, they have the highest death rate of any mental illness, although not all eating disorders cannot be fatal.
Even in his most successful years which produced 7,350 runs and 95 wickets, Suppiah’s demons started during his time on the pitch. He contacted the Professional Cricketers’ Trust via the confidential helpline for help and was diagnosed with depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety. Conditions he managed in his thirties.
The turning point for Malaysian-born Suppiah came five years after his retirement from playing when he felt he was going to pass out at the end of a lesson at Queens College Taunton.
It was after this that he began to receive help from the Professional Cricketers’ Trust, the registered charity which supports members of the Professional Cricketers’ Association and their families when they are in need.
“In 2017 I decided to be a vegetarian and to be healthy,” said Suppiah, who played alongside Professional Cricketers’ Trust manager Marcus Trescothick in Somerset, who was a pioneer himself. in raising awareness of mental health issues.
“But I could feel something talking to me, and I call it ‘The Voice,’ and The Voice is the eating disorder.
“In February and March, people were starting to say I was starting to lose weight and I just nodded, and I think that just fueled the ego, fueled The Voice and just made it stronger .
“I didn’t realize any of that and in the spring of 2017 – during the Easter term – I think that’s just when it started to get a bit more intense.”
Former English skipper and TV presenter Andrew Flintoff has produced a documentary called ‘Living with bulimia’ and has admitted he suffers from an eating disorder after feeling victimized when he appeared in the UK press at the start of his international career.
In 2021 alone, the Trust supported 106 people with mental health issues, bringing the total since 2015 to 526.
Support for current and former players in England and Wales is comprehensive, whether for physical or mental needs, including the provision of specialist equipment, fundraising or specialist welfare support. be.
Suppiah admitted his disorder got so bad in 2017 that it had a negative effect on his ability to live and caused him to spend isolated periods and avoid social situations as his mental health deteriorated.
“I couldn’t socialize,” he said. “I didn’t know how to go out with my friends for dinner – my answer was ‘no, I can’t come to dinner’ because I had to exercise or because I could only eat certain types of safe food.
“In the summer of 2017, I think that’s when things started to change in terms of behavior, mood – I was very lively, had tantrums and spent a lot time alone.
“I was completely possessed by The Voice.”
It was after his dizzy spell in early 2018 that Suppiah decided to get to the bottom of his issues and visit his GP, who told him he had become severely underweight.
A former professional cricketer and colleague at the time put him in touch with the Trust, which is partnering with the ECB and Sky Sports ahead of the day of the Vitality Blast final to highlight the work of the association players’ charity and raise much-needed funds. .
Vitality Blast Finals Day is set to support players’ charity for the third consecutive year and with several heartbreaking and heartwarming stories told throughout the build-up, fundraising activities are now confirmed.
The Trust was set up to support the health and well-being of PCA members who have entertained cricket supporters over the years on the pitch when they are in desperate need of help.
Several players past and present have spoken so openly about the support they have received, including Yorkshire Vikings spinner Dom Bess and Hampshire Hawks dressmaker Chris Wood who are set to play on Saturday.
With the Trust taking center stage on the day of the final, awareness of the charity will be raised with the aim of creating funds to continue its work in being a vital support mechanism for cricket’s greatest assets. , its players.
“The Trust phoned me and said, ‘Do I need help?’ and I went ‘yes, I really need help,’ and that’s when I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa,” Suppiah said.
“I never, ever thought in a million years that this would happen to me.
“As for how the Trust helped me, it was just amazing, and I was very lucky to see a psychologist, a psychiatrist and a dietitian all together.
“That’s when I was able to turn a corner and I was able to show progress, and progress then was about gaining weight.
“In terms of recovery, I’m still on the right track and I think the Trust has given me a second chance, another opportunity to live and I sincerely thank the Trust for that.”
The Professional Cricketers’ Trust provides vital support to past and present cricketers in England and Wales and their immediate families when they are in desperate need. The charity’s work encompasses everything, whether for unforeseen physical or mental needs. Vitality Blast Finals Day supports players’ charity – to learn more about the Professional Cricketers’ Trust visit professionalcricketerstrust.org