COLLINGWOOD forward Alex Fasolo has opened up for the first time about his mental health struggles, detailing his toughest and darkest moments as a footballer.
Fasolo took time out of the game this season to deal with depression, missing the Magpies' round 11 clash against Fremantle in Perth.
Writing for new website playersvoice.com.au, Fasolo said he had regularly "thought about walking away from footy" and would often struggle to bring himself to go to work.
"I'd wake up every morning, I'd set my alarm and I'd go, 'oh, no'. I'd sit in my car and cry for about 20 minutes. Then I'd get up the courage and I'd drive into the club and I'd get to the car park, and then I'd sit in the car and cry for another 20 minutes, get up the courage, and then I'd walk into the club, look at the doors and just go, 'yep!' - put on this big front," Fasolo wrote.
Fasolo is one of several AFL players that have taken leave from footy to deal with mental health issues, with Bulldogs pair Tom Boyd and Travis Cloke also taking time away this season.
The 25-year-old revealed that he would often arrive at Pies headquarters wearing an emotional mask.
"With my personality I've always been the life of the party, I've always been the bloke that's created energy, and I kept feeling that I had to keep living up to that," Fasolo wrote.
"And that didn't help, because I'd go to the club, I'd put on this big front and then I'd walk out of the club, get into my car and then just cry all the way home and just fall in a heap. This probably went on for a few months."
Fasolo said he couldn't say that he was "cured or better", but had more understanding of his issues and that walking away from footy "would just be running away".
He added that he had "some really dark times where you think about death a lot".
"This is a hard thing to talk about. It's hard to explain. I get it. It's an escape fantasy when things get really bad and dark thoughts do really travel in your mind," Fasolo said.
"Death, you feel like death is at the back of your mind somewhere. Not suicide. That's just an escape fantasy."
To read Fasolo's full column, click here.
If you are between 12 and 25 years of age, contact Headspace.