New Masters champion Stephen Bunting has opened up on his battles with mental health and revealed how a hypnotist has helped turn his career around.
The 38-year-old won his first televised PDC major title on Sunday when he outclassed Michael van Gerwen in the final in Milton Keynes just a few years after nearly walking away from the game.
Bunting, who is a former BDO world champion, made the switch to the PDC circuit a decade ago and threatened to make waves before he hit a dip that left him depressed.
The Liverpudlian said he felt like a laughing stock and turned to a hypnotist and sports psychologist to get over his demons.
“I was ready for walking away,” he said. “It was awful, I was walking into events and I felt like everyone was laughing at me.
“I felt like no matter what I was doing everything was going wrong. I was taking it out on my family and locking myself away.
“I was depressed, it was an awful place to be. Thankfully the psychologist and hypnotist over the last few years have helped.
“I was against it at first but I thought I needed to do something and that was probably the last step that I could take and I went.
“He taught me how to think not just about darts, there’s other things than darts, your family, your home life.
“I know they say in Peter Pan you think about happy stuff and you can fly but it is the same sort of logic in darts. If you turn up and are feeling happy and good then you can win anything.
“The hypnotist helped me with my sleep. That’s the biggest thing for me, a one-hour session with a hypnotist is a four-hour REM state so it helps you to focus, it helps you look at all the positives and stop looking at the negatives.
“Your mind is 95 per cent negative so sometimes every one of us will be in the negative side of the brain without even knowing it.
“I don’t think there are many players who have dipped into that side so to have that extra one or two per cent that helps. As you can see I am a champion now, so I’m just happy.”
Bunting, who channelled his inner Lionel Messi by sleeping alongside his trophy on Sunday night, has been waiting a long time to get his hands on some silverware.
“I might give my trophy, but I wouldn’t give my title back,” he quipped.
“I actually felt like I lost a family member. I was away in Ireland when I heard the news and I was absolutely devastated. I don’t think there is a manager in the world that could take his place.
“Such a fantastic manager, what he has done for the club, a special, special man. He will be sorely missed by everyone at Liverpool. Even the Premier League will miss him.
“I am going to go to the cup final, I have got a ticket for the last game of the season, so I will be able to pay my respects and see him off. It is emotional for any Liverpool fan.”