05 Jan 2006, 04:33:16 PM

Reporter: Nicolas Boot

The death of rugby league great, Steve Rogers, who was suffering from depression, has put a public face to the often misunderstood mental illness.

But the problem is much is not limited to Rogers and other high profile Australians – such as businessman Rene Rivkin and Crowded House drummer Paul Hester - who also died after suffering depression.

In Australia, one in four women and one in six men have been clinically diagnosed with the illness.

According to depression expert professor Ian Hickey, people with the illness often refuse to discuss their problems with those around them.

Hickey said particularly those in high profile positions will often do anything to avoid publicly acknowledging their illness.

"They are afraid of losing their job, afraid of losing their social situation, afraid of being revealed to be weak so when that happens they're more likely to treat themselves with alcohol or other drugs," Hickey said.

"When people don't get good care they tend to try and treat themselves they tend to withdraw from their families they under-perform at work in fact many will lose their job as a consequence of poor work performance."

"So the health risks are large and tragically we see the end of these situations in suicides."

But Hickey told Today Tonight there were warning signs which could help detect whether someone you care about has been suffering from depression.

Warning signs of depression

Talking About Dying - that's any mention of dying

Recent Loss - death, divorce, separation or job loss

Change in Personality - becoming sad, withdrawn, irritable, anxious, tired

Change in Behaviour - inability to concentrate

Change in Sleep Patterns - insomnia

Change in Eating Habits - loss of appetite, even over eating

Low self esteem - feeling worthless, shame, or overwhelming guilt

Celebrity agent Max Markson said elite sports people often encounter problems when their playing careers end.

"They think where do I go from here," Markson said.

"There's a macho part of [not wanting to talk about your problems] because you are invincible you're a boxer, rugby league player and you've achieved and you're a hero so therefore it's not right that maybe you cry or that you are sad."

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