John's mental health story

Johns story"I moved from Melbourne when I was 18 and I have lived here ever since. I was a nursery man for 30 years... I was highly respected in the industry and then it just all caved in when I had a back injury... The accident was the start of the end because I crushed a disc. I ended up having four different lots of surgery on my back, and since then I’ve lived the life of chronic pain.

My depression started after the second surgery. I couldn’t work so my wife and I bought the business. The plan was my back would get fixed by all the surgery and I would take a step back... I just went into this deep dark well of my depression that engulfed me. It destroyed my marriage, we lost our business, and we went bankrupt.

With my depression, I would load myself up with pain killers, and put my head under the doona and escape from the world... My GP and pain clinics I had seen had prescribed anti-depressants, but other than that I hadn’t seen anyone for my depression until the first time I attempted suicide. I overdosed and ended up in hospital for about a week. I was in the high dependency ward for about four days, and then three days in the general ward...

I was referred to a psychiatrist. I saw him and he just basically said 'there’s nothing wrong with you. You’ve taken a hell of a hammering physically and mentally in the last few years. It’s understandable that you’re very depressed'...

I felt it was a sort of a kick in the pants to myself when I did it. A bit of a wake-up call to move on from this... But then things deteriorated again, and I attempted suicide two years after my first attempt. After my second suicide attempt I was referred back to my insurance company because my case is a worker’s comp case. They actually insisted that I get some psychological help, and I had about four lots of six sessions. In the end we decided we were just going round and round in circles. She couldn’t really help me anymore, so I stopped seeing her.

I attempted suicide again, and this time I was put in a mental health unit. The treatment and the lack of dignity was just absolutely terrible. It was the first time I’d ever been in a mental health unit, and I’d been stuck in a booth for six or seven hours. I asked if I could sit outside and have a glass of water and a smoke. The nurse said 'Nuh! You earn privileges around here.' They took everything off me...and it was a real shock to see the way that I was treated...

"The treatment and the lack of dignity was just absolutely terrible."

One day I just went from having intermittent bouts of depression that I’d get myself out of and be happy, to just the depression being permanently there. For the first time in my life, I started getting anxiety attacks... They were really serious, where I couldn’t even walk out the back door... Then finally one day, all I could do was curl up in the foetal position... I ended up in the mental health ward for a week. This time it was a lot better... I think they were told to be a bit more gentle and reassuring with me...

My GP oversees most of my care, and I only see psychiatrists sporadically, usually when I’ve had a suicide attempt... It was while I was in hospital for the week that it was recommended I get a peer support worker... The peer support service I am with has had a number of staff leave and due to this I have lost my peer support worker. I feel that this has broken my bond with my worker, whom I depended upon... I currently see a psychologist. I have had three sessions and he is good... He has also got a lived experience with chronic pain...

My back injury has worsened which has caused my depression to get worse also. I have had a recent admission into hospital and now will be back seeing all the specialists again, trying to find answers.

I still feel a sense of hopelessness. At the age of 53, not working, not having a partner, and just a whole loss of dignity. I’ve lost all desire and ambition... I’m over the chronic pain and I’m over my back controlling my life. I’m over depression. For me it’s been a combination of unforeseen incidents that just snowballed into this massive problem that I’ve found myself in."

To read John's full story or to download a copy, click here.

*Names and photograph changed to protect privacy. The views and opinions in these stories do not necessarily reflect or represent the views of COORDINARE – South Eastern NSW PHN, and is not advice that is provided, or information that is endorsed, by COORDINARE. COORDINARE is not responsible for negligence or otherwise for any damage however arising from the use of or reliance on the information provided in these stories.

Contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 if you are in need of immediate assistance, or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.