"For me the work I do with the Black Dog Institute is my sense of purpose.. it is my role as a Black Dog volunteer presenter that helps me maintain my health and wellbeing.”
I am married with a biological daughter, a step-son, two step-daughters and two granddaughters. I love my fishing and camping, and after playing Aussie rules most of my life I have gone to the dark side and become an umpire.
When did you first start with Black Dog Institute?
It is either 7 or 8 years this year. Which I am extremely proud of. I think I am the longest serving community presenter, and not planning to stop anytime soon.
How many presentations have you done?
Including an upcoming trip, I am closing in on 90.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Over summer it is fishing. I enjoy catching up with friends. Playing golf (don’t do it enough).
Can you remember your first presentation? What was it like?
I cannot remember my first presentation, but I do remember one early on that I organised myself. Only five people showed up. I was a little disappointed but determined to present anyway. It is still one of my most memorable presentations as all five people were really struggling with their own mental illness. At the end we had a discussion where each of them discussed what was worrying them the most. It had a lasting impact on me and from that day on, I have never worried about the size of the audience.
Why do you love presenting for Black Dog Institute?
Where do I start? For me the work I do with the Black Dog Institute is my sense of purpose. I love my family, but it is my role as a Black Dog presenter that helps me maintain my health and wellbeing. If I am not looking after myself, I am not going to be able present. If I cannot present I cannot help people. If I am not helping people then I feel in some way that I am not meeting my responsibility. I am in a fortunate position, that I am comfortable speaking about my illness and I feel there is a reason for this.
What has been your favourite experience with Black Dog Institute so far?
It is hard to name just one. The one that has had the most impact would be when I met a guy at a health and wellbeing expo at a university in Albury. I was doing the usual and chatting to people, handing out fact sheets etc. A couple meters away I could see a guy standing around, seemingly waiting. As soon as my stall was clear, he came over and told me he was diagnosed with depression around 12 months ago. He was taking his meds but was really struggling. His marriage was suffering, as were his studies and his work. As we talked further I asked him about his symptoms and the more he spoke the more I felt his symptoms reflected my symptoms before I was diagnosed with Bipolar II. I explained to him that I was not a doctor and had no formal qualifications but that I think he should go to his doctor and talk about the possibility he may also have Bipolar II.
Twelve months later, I was attending the same expo. I was still setting up when I was grabbed from behind, and lifted a foot or so off the ground. I was put back down, I turned around, and it was the same guy I had a conversation with a year ago. Well it was the same guy physically. His demeanour and expressions where very different. With genuine excitement and emotion in his voice (that I will never forget) he explained that a week after he spoke to me he went to his doctor and after seeing a psychiatrist he was diagnosed with Bipolar II. His marriage has never been stronger. He has a new job, has finished his first course and is now doing his honours.
We chattered for about 30 minute as he helped me set up. At no stage did I think about my role in his improvement. I was just so happy for him and his family.