Two time A-League Championship winner Stuart Musialik tells the PFA about his struggles with mental illness, alcohol abuse and how the support of family and friends helped him through the toughest times.

Stuart Musialik was 15 when his father committed suicide.

“Looking back now, my dad suffered severely from bipolar and depression,” said Musialik.

“I knew that something wasn’t right with him, and he had even told me a few weeks beforehand that he was suicidal but he was through that.”

“It was a very difficult thing to accept, to lose your dad, but to lose him in that way, knowing he took his own life and that it was avoidable.”

Musialik’s father was a goalkeeper for Edgeworth in Newcastle, and coached junior football in Newcastle where both Musialik and his brother played and fell in love with the game.

After his father’s passing, Musialik threw himself into football and made it his goal to get a scholarship to go to the Australian Institute of Sport. He achieved his goal and spent two years at the AIS in Canberra – which he says was the most enjoyable time of his football career – before returning to Newcastle to play in the dying days of the National Soccer League.

“Once the NSL finished and football was taken away for a period there that’s when I really mentally felt it the most, and that’s when I went through my first period of actual depression,” said Musialik.

“It was really frustrating because I didn’t understand what was going on.”

“Even with what had happened with my dad, I still had no understanding of mental illness or depression, so I didn’t really know what was going on.”

“I shut my family out, which I’d done since what happened with my dad.”

When the A-League started Musialik played the first three seasons with the Newcastle Jets helping them win their first Championship in 2008. But the talented midfielder’s brilliant on-field form was masking an increasingly difficult off-field life.

“It started out as the odd night out on the drink with the boys…and then from there it starting spiralling out of control rapidly,” said Musialik.

“I’d always go out with the right intentions…but it became a vicious cycle and really started to affect my life, my mental health, my football. Everything really quickly got way out of control.”

Struggling with his mental health, Musialik began to alter the dosage of his medications without his doctor’s knowledge which eventually found him in hospital. His off field problems eventually led to an early exit from the game in 2011 after his second A-League Championship with Sydney FC.

“To be honest, I wasn’t reaching anywhere near my potential, or anywhere near where I knew I could get to because of the lifestyle that I was leading,” said Musialik.

“I’ve spent the last five or six years trying to get on top of it, I’ve been in and out of hospital, I’ve tried different medications, I’ve even tried ECT shock therapy.”

“It’s been a very long and frustrating period, but the last 12 months I’ve started to really improve and see a light at the end of the tunnel. I’m working now, I’m back playing football again this year.”

“I’m definitely not a 100% yet but I’ve improved a lot and looking forward to getting on with the rest of my life.”

During his time with Newcastle Jets, Musialik developed a strong relationship with teammate Tarek Elrich which helped him through some of his darkest times.

“I definitely had a very strong relationship with Tarek and his family and still keep in touch with them.”

“I wouldn’t have got through my period in Newcastle and Sydney with Tarek.”

“My family too, I wouldn’t be here without my family, even though I did everything I could to push them away, without them I don’t know if I would have got through it.”