Oracle returns in less serious role

If you hear the familiar voice of Glenn Mitchell in his new weekly gig on FM radio on Monday, do not expect him to be taking sport too seriously.

Once known as "The Oracle" for his encyclopaedic knowledge, the former ABC presenter who compulsively pored over statistics to prepare for each commentary gig is no longer obsessed.

"The obsession I had with sport and sports broadcasting seems like another lifetime," Mitchell said yesterday.

"I was very self-absorbed with the job and commentating meant everything."

Three years ago, Mitchell famously resigned from his dream job during a bout of misdiagnosed mental illness and plunged into a deep, suicidal depression.

"The first six-to-12 months were harrowing because I was bitter and angry and I really wanted my job back," he said.

"But I look back and think it's the best thing that ever happened to me. I've got balance in my life that I never had before.

"If someone said to me right now, here's a four-year contract to do the Commonwealth Games and Olympics and footy and cricket full-time I'd say no. It's the last thing I'd ever do."

Now, Mitchell is focussed on spending time with son James, 8, and wife Karen Tighe, a presenter on ABC radio's Grandstand.

"This week, I went to a swimming carnival with my son and I thought back to when he was five, when I had the breakdown - there was no quality for him with me as a father," he said.

"I didn't want to play with him."

Mitchell said he wanted to make up for the time his wife spent "walking on eggshells" at home. "Karen went through hell for quite a while," he said.

"It was difficult for her to go into the ABC and host a national Grandstand program after a morning at home with me, knowing that when she went back home again it wouldn't be any better.

"She is a remarkable person. She was the one who kept things going and she was my principal carer at times."

Mitchell now does a weekly panel segment on a television show, writes columns, does some local radio WA Football League commentary and is the replacement for cricketer Brad Hogg on the Monday morning sports wrap on mix94.5.

But his most important jobs are speaking engagements, when he shares his story and encourages other people feeling overwhelmed to seek appropriate diagnosis and treatment.

The Wheatbelt coordinator for the OneLife suicide prevention strategy, Jane Mouritz, said yesterday she had no doubt Mitchell had saved lives during his trips out to the country.

"There were countless times people would come up afterwards and disclose what's happening with them after Glenn spoke, because he is so absolutely honest," she said.

"It's almost like his illness has been a gift to our State."

Mrs Mouritz said funding for the OneLife program had been wound down in November but would hopefully be restarted after an evaluation of its first four years of operation.

"It will be disappointing particularly for people in rural areas, if it doesn't come back," Mitchell said. "You can commentate a football game and it just goes into the ether. This is much more rewarding."

If you or someone you know is thinking of suicide, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

The West Australian

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