The tell-all Ben Cousins documentary, Such is Life: the troubled times of Ben Cousins, is reported to screen on Channel Seven on Wednesday 25 August at 8:30pm. The 32-year-old served a 12-month suspension for bringing the Australian Football League (AFL) into disrepute for an addiction to recreational drugs in 2008. Cousins was subsequently cleared to return to football in 2009 and was drafted by Richmond Football Club on 16 December 2008, leading to a surge in Richmond’s club membership. The doco has been more than two years in the making, with hundreds of hours of interviews distilled to 90 minutes. Intense speculation has surrounded Cousins’ future. He is on a one-year deal with the Tigers, having gained another contract after his first year at the club in 2009. Media outlets today are reporting that Cousins is set to announce his AFL retirement at a press conference on Tuesday. As Mike Sheahan wrote in the Herald Sun, “Ben Cousins is the young man with the film star face, extraordinary sporting talent and charisma by the truckload who has been a drug user since his teens and an addict for several years.” After being the subject of so much Australian media scrutiny and gossip, the documentary will provide Cousins the forum to tell his side of the story.
So, as expected, the airing of the Ben Cousins doco stirred up controversy. Some punters felt it glamorised drug use, while others felt it was an educated and insightful depiction of the illness of addiction. The documentary was a major ratings winner for the Seven Network with two million people tuning in to the first instalment. Amidst all the hype and opinion pieces written after it’s screening, there is one news item from ABC Online that was not so widely picked up. It reports that the airing of the documentary sparked an increase in help line calls.
Geoff Munro from the Australian Drug Foundation says there has been a big increase in activity on its website and on national telephone helplines.
“[A] fifteen fold increase in Victoria, 200 per cent in Sydney 400 per cent in eastern Australia,” he said.
“So around the country it appears that the documentary has sparked a massive increase in people wanting information.”
Whatever your opinion of Cousins, those figures can’t be scoffed at.