Give yourself a sporting chance

Date: October 1, 2014 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

 

OneLifeBy Marnie McKimmie, ‘The West Australian’, 1 October 2014

Former ABC sports broadcaster Glenn Mitchell warns WA men they are “playing with fire” if, like him, they turn their back and ignore their mental health.

Pulled back from the brink of suicide by a park ranger, he is still scared that he came so close to taking his own life.

“I look back now and think I could have missed out on all the joy that I have had plus the impact it would have had on my wife, my son and my family,” he said. “I count every day now as a blessing.

“I still remember driving my son to preschool. He was in the back seat and over my shoulder I told him, ‘Dad has to go away and will not be able to come back and see you again’. And within hours of that, I had made the attempt on my life.

“My son started crying and wanted to know why, and I said it was all too complicated.”

It then took 40 minutes in the carpark to calm the boy down before he would go to class, with other parents stopping to ask if everything was OK.

“I was late taking mental health advice and seeking advice and then I abandoned it because I thought I had all the answers and I had had enough of seeing doctors and specialists,” Mr Mitchell said. “And unfortunately for me, it all culminated in a complete mental breakdown.”

After his diagnosis was fine-tuned from depression to bipolar disorder and medication adjusted, Mr Mitchell is back on track and says his wife now tells him the 21 years he spent as a high-profile broadcaster was all preparation for his current important job in suicide prevention and as a mental health advocate.

Travelling to 70 locations across the State, he finds chatting about sport helps breaks the ice in a room full of uncomfortable men.

And his well-known radio voice makes it more likely he will be listened to as he lists what he wished he had done to own up, be brave enough to act early and protect his mental health.

Mr Mitchell also admits that putting things off had “fractured friendships and relationships” and “dragged down” work colleagues.

“For me, there were plenty of warning signs along the way — behavioural and personality. But I always found a way of saying that I had had a bad day at work or a disagreement with someone, when really all I was doing was abrogating my responsibility to my family and to myself to actually go and do something about,” he said.

Now he wishes he had not made excuses, not built up barriers, seen his GP earlier and learnt more about mental health.

“I believed in a society that would not understand me and I now realise that this is just not the case,” he said. “I look back now and I think ‘What was all the fuss about?’ No one has ever come up to me and offered anything other than support.”