17/03/2017 9:55 AM AEDT | Updated 17/03/2017 10:30 AM AEDT

James Hird: Why I Overdosed On Sleeping Tablets

'Depression is more than just sadness. It is an all-encompassing, debilitating, real sickness that strikes many people.'

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Admitting he was ill was the best thing he did in years.

Former Essendon coach and champion player James Hird has opened up for the first time about the episode in early January which saw him taken to hospital after he took too many sleeping tablets.

Hird, 44, subsequently spent five weeks in Melbourne psychiatric facility, the Albert Road Clinic. As he wrote in a column published in the Herald Sun:

"Everyone has a breaking point and I reached mine after years of continual stress. I am not ashamed to say that I needed the care I received and without it I do not know where I would be.

Depression is more than just sadness. It is an all-encompassing, debilitating, real sickness that strikes many people.

The words 'psychiatric facility' conjure up images of crazy people strapped to tables or walking around in drug-induced comas. The reality is that the clinic, and others like it, are very different to this and are essential to our community. It was life-changing for me.

Certainly, it was no holiday camp but provided a supportive, welcoming, safe and caring environment and allowed me to receive the treatment I needed. I am eternally grateful for the outstanding professional support I received from the nurses and doctors."

Hird went on to say that in recent years he had been "short-tempered, distant, hard to live with at times, rude at time, and ill".

These have been tough years for Hird, whose reputation took a whopping hit as details of the Essendon supplements scandal came to light. Thirty-four Essendon players received 12 month playing bans for the regime of supplements which Hird oversaw during his tenure as coach. 2012 Brownloe medallist Jobe Watson was also stripped of his honour.

"I should have known more and done more and I feel extremely guilty and bad for that, because I made decisions in real time that in hindsight I think were wrong," Hird said in January 2016 of his role in the scandal.

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He owes everything to her.

Hird also said in his column that he pretty much tuned out to football in 2016, a year in which his beloved Bombers collected the wooden spoon after notching just three wins with a team depleted by the suspended players.

But he said he can't wait for season 2017, which be believes will be all about the Essendon comeback story. Hird also praised the enduring support and positivity of his wife Tania.

If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact beyondblue on 1300224636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.