Perth Glory defender Ljubo Milicevic has opened up about his struggle with depression, while also blasting the amount of pressure put on young professionals playing various codes.
Milicevic, who signed with Glory on August 19, is known as one of the more combustible characters in A-League history following numerous personality clashes with team-mates and coaches, but he believes that those days are behind him as he matures as a person and a player.
Speaking to SEN on Thursday, Milicevic said he believes that western cultures are too quick to medicate in cases of mental ill-health without attempting to understand the reasons why people are suffering.
"Obviously I went through some really tough times and people put those labels on me," Milicevic said.
"The reality is that I lived outside of my comfort zone since the age of 16 … I was isolated, I was injured and I went through traumatic experiences."
The 32-year-old believes the general perception of professional sportsmen is that they are lucky to be getting paid and travel the world for their respective sports.
"It's all relative … the problem is in Australia, or in sport in general, if you show any weakness in that culture you are teased," Milicevic said.
"Generally in team sport you're meant to be macho … but every day you're getting critiqued, you are under pressure to perform every training session especially when you are competing for a spot."
Speaking from experience, Milicevic highlights the pressure on young athletes to perform, suggesting that after a bad training session or game, they could be inclined to dwell on those negatives, threatening to seriously affect their mental health.
Not only speaking about football, Milicevic highlighted the pressure among other football codes, such as the National Rugby League [NRL] and the Australian Football League [AFL].
"It's become that bad and that intense that of course at the end of the season these players let loose, because they have been under too much pressure and stress for a whole season," Milicevic said.
"It's unnatural … I don't think any human should be judged on a daily basis the way those guys are in Australia."
Speaking of the pressure of professional football in Europe, Milicevic argues that it is where you play that will determine the stress levels.
"When I went to Hajduk Split in Croatia that was ridiculous … it's a whole city that goes for one team and it's bigger than religion there so you couldn't escape the pressure, nothing was ever good enough."
Now playing for his third A-League club, Milicevic is focusing on the positives of his career and is excited to have re-joined Perth Glory.
Channelling Michael Caton's character Darryl Kerrigan from The Castle, Milicevic is quietly confident about the Glory's chances this year.
"The vibe is awesome, Alastair Edwards, Scott Miller and Gareth Naven have started something pretty special at the club," Milicevic said.
"We have a lot of talent [all] over the park, one of the most balanced teams I have been part of; I think we will finish around first, second or third [on the table].
With hopes high for the new season and in a better place personally, Milicevic has a chance to leave a positive legacy in the latter part of his career.