Mark Selby explains mental health struggles during World Championship glories

March 1, 2022
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Phil Haigh ✍️  

Welsh Open 2020 - Day 1
Mark Selby has battled to the richest prize in snooker despite mental health struggles (Picture: Getty Images)

The mental health struggles that Mark Selby is dealing with now have been going on for years and he has even won a World Championship title while being in the middle of a ‘bad place’.

The world number one revealed in January that he is suffering with mental health problems, tweeting after a Masters defeat to Barry Hawkins: ‘Just want to apologise to all my friends and family for letting them down.

‘Mentally not in a good place at moment, had a relapse and trying to bottle it up and put a brave face on is not the way. I promise I will get help and become a better person #mentalhealth.’

Selby had spoken about struggling with depression in the past and has continued to be open about his problems as he gets help from a doctor to deal with them.

The 38-year-old is still playing snooker, winning his opening match at the Welsh Open on Monday against Chen Zifan, and says being at the table can help, but the game can also bring about the worst of times.

‘When I’m at the table and working out the breaks, you’re thinking of nothing else except the shots you are playing,’ Selby told Eurosport after beating Chen. ‘The hardest part for me is when I’m sitting in my chair and trying not to think about too many things.

‘It’s not really snooker related, it’s a lot of things off the table.

‘2016 I was in a bad place even when I won the Worlds. Two tournament before I missed both of them and wasn’t going to play in the Worlds.

‘[Wife] Vicky says now, even when I picked the trophy up, she came to the table with [daughter] Sofia and I looked through them as if they weren’t there. She knew I wasn’t right then.

‘I’ve been suffering for a few years and bottling everything up and not really saying anything. I’ve been on medication for probably four or five years now. I’m on different medication and working hard with this doctor.

‘I’ve mentioned it, I feel like half the battle is won but there’s still a long way to go.’

Selby has explained how he felt as though he has been putting on a mask over the years and is glad that he does not have to that so much since speaking out on his struggles.

Always a friendly and talkative character at tournaments, it can be hard for people to imagine that the four-time world champion is suffering internally, but it has been very difficult for Selby to maintain appearances.

‘It’s tough,’ he said. ‘You try and explain to someone what you’re going through and unless they’ve been through it themselves, it’s hard to relate to how you’re feeling.

‘From one day to the next I don’t know how I’m going to wake up, I could wake up tomorrow and feel half okay, or not. Every day feels 48 hours long at the minute.’

Selby is continuing to play in tournaments to give him something to focus on, but says he is barely practicing as he concentrates on his health rather than work.

‘I’m surprised how I played really [in the 4-1 win over Chen], because I’ve not really played at all. Played a few days before the European and probably played an hour before I come up here yesterday.

Evergrande 2019 World Snooker China Championship - Day 6
Selby is getting the help he needs to get mentally fit (Picture: Getty Images)

‘I’ve not really got any motivation at the moment to play, but I’m out there and I’m battling.

‘With what’s going on, I’ve just been trying to work on myself, get myself in a better frame of mind and get better.

‘I spoke to the doctor I’m working with to see if I should carry on playing. He said I should carry on because it gives me a focus rather than just sitting at home, looking at four walls and locking yourself away.

‘I’ve carried on playing but the motivation to practice and put the hours in is not there at the moment.

‘Coming to tournaments you’re sort of kidding yourself because I’m thinking I shouldn’t really be playing in it because I’m not putting the hours in and giving myself a chance.’

Selby plays Liam Highfield in the last 64 of the Welsh Open

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