Country South Australia Meet the men



Clare, SA

“There was quite a tragic event that occurred in my early twenties, which turned out to be the catalyst for a whole series of events that I probably otherwise would have been able to deal with. I really struggled and had a suicide attempt. I was taken to hospital, and went through all the trauma associated with having a suicide attempt. 


20 years later, I was married, had a child, and had quite a severe incident at work. I broke my back in three places, and I wasn’t able to work anymore. Suddenly I was forced to deal with my issues because before that, I was earning large amounts of money, and I was able to buy happiness whenever I needed it.  


The turning point for me was my second suicide attempt. Once again, I was detained for 14 days in a Mental Health Institute. When I looked down into my daughter’s eyes after coming from that place, I knew she needed a father. So I looked at my family and realised I am a man and I need to sort this out. 


Men still have this belief that we are ten feet tall and bulletproof, and we tend to just say, “She’ll be right, mate”. We’re told as men, we are not supposed to be broken. I was a husband and a father, so I couldn’t be broken. We need to be the rock for everyone else. I think that stigma is very detrimental to men. I think we really need to open up and be comfortable to talk about something if we feel we’re not travelling well.


I volunteer at Lifeline, so I work with a lot of men. I always say to them, “man up and cry, mate.” One of the greatest things you can do as a man is to just sit down with your wife, your counsellor or your best mate, and just pour your heart out to the point where you cry because you will feel better for it.” 


Cummins, SA

“I was riding horses fast with no helmets on, not caring if I fell off. Drink driving, abusing alcohol and drugs and doing all the reckless things. I just didn’t care if I got into trouble because if I got into trouble, then it might have been a way for me to say what was going on in my mind. 


I was running away from a lot of flashbacks, and I’m sure it was PTSD from child abuse as a kid. The last time my mental health was really bad, I was struggling with my sexuality. I came to identify as gay, but I was married and had two adult kids. I felt like a fraud. I felt like I cheated my wife out of 21 years of marriage. I wasn’t the father that the kids needed.


I just lost absolute control of my mind, my body, and made suicide attempts. It is the blackest, most scariest out-of-body experience you can ever imagine. You can have the most beautiful things around you. I had my kids, and my family, but none of that beauty was getting inside me. It was just so black and so dark and so sad that I thought, “Nope, the best way is out”. 


I spoke to my GP, and I was referred to someone down in Port Lincoln. I had several counselling sessions with them. The doctor said to me, “Well, this is your chance”. I understood what he meant. I didn’t want to live constantly going backwards and forwards with depression and suicidal tendencies, so to whoever listened, I just yelled out, “I’m gay”. I just got it all off my chest.


Now I don’t even think about it anymore. I mean, I still have my bad days with the child abuse, don’t get me wrong. I still have flashbacks, but I know that suicide is just not my path anymore. Once you seek help, you realise how strong you are. I’m still here. I’m still kicking. I’m still telling my story.”


Aberfoyle Park, SA | Ngarrindjeri Man

“I really had to become aware of my mental health when I lost my best friend. He passed by suicide. I knew something was wrong because I’d finish a painting and not feel anything. Normally I’d feel, “Oh, man, that’s incredible!” But instead, it was numbness, and that really scared me because I was doing the only thing that I really loved doing, and I couldn’t feel the joy from it. And that’s when I was like, “Sh*t needs to be sorted.”


During my time in high school, there was no kind of talk about mental health really, other than “how are you?”. It never got deeper than that. Because people haven’t been through those things or discussed those sorts of matters, there are a lot of problematic discussions. You’re just told to get over it and man up and all those obvious things that we’ve had for quite a while now. 


Because I was vicariously taught not to talk about my feelings, I just shut everything out. There were times when I did try to do things, and then, you know, I would just relapse. But I kept going and said to myself, “No, I can’t accept that this is where I’m going to be staying for the rest of my life.”


Luckily, I had incredible friends and family around me who were great at checking in.

I ended up reaching out to places like Lifeline and Beyond Blue. It is scary seeing a psychologist or a counsellor as a dude because there has been this stigma for so long that if you do that, you are broken, or you need repair. But mental health is actually just like our physical body, which needs maintenance too. 


I use my arts practice as a form of therapy. I create work that sometimes is quite dark, but it’s about taking those thoughts and letting them go. You deserve to be happy, and you should be able to talk to people about these things. But if you’re not 100% comfortable and not there yet, putting something else in place is important. Maybe writing in a diary, do some little drawings, write some poems, just keep yourself busy, keep your hands busy. I think it’s always important to express yourself.”


Whyalla, SA

“In 1993, I had major back surgery and ten days post-op… bang! I had my first psychiatric issue. I became delusional and psychotic. Before that, everything was going good. I just had a newborn baby boy. I just bought a house. Job was good, and then it came out of the blue like a shock.


Stigma was really difficult for me. People started calling me Mad Mick, and that tag followed me around for many years. People got quite comfortable saying, “How you going Mad Mick?” That hurt me and made my depression get worse. I had a person say to me that I would never work in this town ever again, and that stuck with me for a long time. 


It was very hard to actually keep up with exactly what was going on. Suicidality feels like your worst day times a thousand. It’s so hard to explain. 


I’d gone to work, and I sort of had this plan that it was going to be my last day. I was really upset, and then one of my coworkers said, “Michael, come and have a cup of coffee with me?” I went and had that cup of coffee with her, and her gesture was a life-changing thing for me that day. It really changed my point of view about feeling suicidal.


I think we need to accept the fact that sometimes these things happen, and we need to find the right pathway to get through it. Be confident that you’re not alone. It’s okay to talk about your feelings. It’s not a weakness to seek help. Seeking professional help is something I think men should feel comfortable doing. You’ve got to go through all of the emotions of what’s actually happened and try and understand what you’ve been through. 


I also think if you can just provide a little bit of your lived experience to someone and make them feel a little bit better, that’s a good day.”


Port Lincoln, SA (of the Kokatha, Wirrangu, Narungga and Banggarla Tribes)

“I can honestly say it started the day that I was taken away from my family. In 1957 (I was 8), my three sisters, myself and my older brother were taken by the government. We went to a strange place, and I had no understanding of what was going on. Very soon after, my brother and sisters were all separated and taken to different places. They went in a car one way, and I went another way.


I believe that was when I first started suffering mentally. I had no way of understanding what had happened. I was always on guard. I found out what it’s like to be a stranger in your own country. People asked me who I was, and I’d say, “I don’t know!” I’ve never fully understood family or the closeness of family. When I’d go to a friend’s place, they’d say, “This is my Mum,” and I’d be thinking, I wonder where my Mum is?


When I was an adult, through Aboriginal people, I found out where one of my sisters was living, but that was another education because I started finding out who I was and who my family was. My family has only ever been together once, at my father’s funeral, and it won’t happen now because two of my siblings are no longer alive.


I talk to psychologists, I am involved in Aboriginal welfare, and there’s a group here that talk about the Stolen Generation in Port Lincoln, so I’m talking a little bit more about it. I exercise a lot, and I’ve played sport for about 40 years. Today I get a bit of relief watching my grandkids play hockey.


I would say to people, my countrymen, if you want to talk, have a talk. Don’t feel shame because it might be the start of a new life.”


Bow Hill, SA

“I had a mentor in the army that looked after us in my battalion for the first few months I was there. He came home one night, He was drunk, and I was sober, trying to tell him to shut up as you do. I woke up the next morning, and he had died. 


After, I started getting really bad nightmares, and over the last 20 years, it got worse. I’ve gone through alcoholism, drugs, homelessness and I didn’t see it as a mental health problem because I thought I had everything under control, but obviously, I didn’t. At one point, I had to run 17kms to work because I couldn’t even afford a bike. I realised I had to seek professional help. I didn’t know I had PTSD until recently. 


I think that men are always looked at as stronger and that we can handle it, and I think with men we’d rather keep things to ourselves. Obviously, that affects not only us but the people around us as well. I was losing friends and particularly family. Once I started using services like psychologists, my head-space got a lot better.


A lot of people think that asking for help is a big thing. But at the end of the day, it’s the little things that count. My first step was a goal to save enough money for a TV. Would you believe it! I had nothing! And this was only eight years ago. Now I’m married, got my own house, car, it’s completely changed around. 


I engaged myself in community groups, and tennis associations, just got myself a little bit more active and around people that were doing better than me. I’m a very passionate veteran, so I organised a dinner, raised $20,000 for a new war memorial and things like that that bring smiles to other people’s faces.


I still see my psychologist, and there’s no shame in seeing a psychologist. At the end of the day, he’s been wonderful. Conversation is the main thing. I feel that a lot of people with mental health problems sometimes aren’t really honest with close contacts. I think shame comes into it. So I think it is sometimes better to go out and look for that professional help or get into a group where you know no one, and you can start afresh and be honest with them.”


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