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Depression and Death - Nicklas Helenius at Villa

Nicklas Helenius on the personal demons he encountered in Birmingham.

Shaun Botterill

For many people, the world is a rainbow spectrum. Our lives are filled with oranges, purples, clarets and blues, but for many others, the world is coloured in a shade of grey. On-loan Villa forward, Nicklas Helenius is one of the latter. In a 'tell-all interview' with Danish site tv3Sport, Nicklas speaks about the troubles that a young man like himself, faced alone in a strange new world.

It's not a strange occurrence for a bright, young and foreign talent to 'fail' in the English Premier League - it's actually quite common. Bebe, Helenius and countless others (I bet you can name some) have fallen to the wayside after little more than a season. This could be due to a number of reasons such as a failure in the club's scouting network or a work-shy attitude. Nicklas, however, had his own reasons.

Early on in his Villa career. Nicklas was struck down by what was described as a 'Campylobacter like bacterium' - a nasty infection similar to food poisoning. Nicklas even goes on to state 'I could not move because of the pain, I couldn't do much more than sit all day. I lost 8 kilos very quickly'. Now, imagine being under the spotlight in the world's most scrutinising league. A missed goal or a bungled opportunity could leave your career in ruins. Now imagine that pressure combined with a lack of english language skills and an extraordinarily bad illness. Nicklas did not have it easy by any stretch of the imagination.

It wasn't an easy path fro the young Dane. Nicklas, for some reason, didn't get the treatment he needed and carried on suffering. It only went downhill from there.

'I did not know my body as well, and I did not know what after-effects such as bacteria can bring. I had no idea what it was. I thought I was hit by a neurological disease or serious cancer. It was fucking hard and it knocked me backwards' - Nicklas Helenius, speaking to tv3sport.dk

Nicklas had piles of pressure on him. Fans expecting from him at a time when he was suffering what could have been a life threatening illness. All at a time when he was struggling to adapt to life in a new country. Then, if it couldn't get any more worse, Nicklas started showing symptoms of depression.

For those not in the know, Depression isn't the 'blues' or 'feeling down'. Depression is a serious mental illness, It can't usually be cured without professional help. Not only was Nicklas' body failing him, his mind was as well.

'It all got worse in January, I was stressed, and depression hit me. I could not calm the nerves. It hurt so much, like I had torn a lot of ligaments above.'

Fear of dying, pressure and depression led to insomnia. Nicklas started to lose sleep. This started from his worries at leaving his homeland, of course, that was to be expected. Nicklas lost a night of sleep each week in November. This got worse with the infection and the nerves he felt. Nicklas became addicted to sleeping pills, as sleep started to become his refuge from the pain his current life was bringing him.

It was in February that Nicklas decided to speak up and go to a doctors, and I cannot blame him for that. With fear of a cancer of neurological disease, a confirmation of that would have probably killed him. He was given the all clear and Aston Villa became notified of his problems. Helenius was allowed a 10 day leave back to Denmark in March.

The worries and pain he felt in 2013 faded away with help from an unlikely source. The autobiography for Danish Handball legend Lars Christiansen. Helenius got in touch with the mentioned psychologist in the book, the one that Lars had used. Nicklas went cold turkey and dropped the sleeping pills after this, leading to withdrawal symptoms.

'When depression gets bad, I was afraid to die and thoughts of death surrounded me all the time. I shouted for help. I just had to get through this, one way or another.'

Nicklas is now back in Denmark, with Danish club Aalborg. A one year loan from Aston Villa. Nicklas admits that he has not suffered from bad thoughts since he got back to his home country.

Clearly, the move to Denmark has helped Helenius and I would not be surprised if he was to stay. Depression is a serious problem in the sporting world, one that is perhaps overlooked, especially at a time when we are demanding the best from our most brightest talents. Let's be sure not to suffocate the light out, but perhaps allow it room to breathe.