A-Z

Depression and recovery in Australia

Family, friends and partners

Many people spoke about the impact, both positive and negative, of friends, family and partners on their wellbeing. When supportive, families and friends were described as being of valuable help. Most people were grateful for the support from family and friends, but did not want this support to be overbearing.

Siblings were an important source of support for many. Parents were also a source of support, including when the person with depression reached adulthood. Indeed, they were often the only support, particularly in circumstances where the person with depression was divorced, often as a result of depression. Others told us about their parents’ efforts to learn about depression to help support them. For some people who attempted to harm themselves, parental supervision was highly appreciated. Some people identified their adult children as their main source of support, but a desire to protect young children from their parent’s mental health problems was also expressed by a few people. Others described mixed responses from family, such as one parent being supportive and the other not showing much understanding.
 
Family and partners
 
People who lived with depression for long periods of time had a lot to say about the support they were or weren’t receiving from their families. For most people relationships with family members were complex and multi-layered, and the levels of support they received varied over time.
 

Paul described his immediate family support as the most important factor in his recovery, but...

Paul described his immediate family support as the most important factor in his recovery, but...

Age at interview: 39
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 29
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Can you talk a bit about what’s been most beneficial for you in terms of support or things that you’ve done that have, you know, helped you pull yourself up, up out of the depression?
 
Def, definitely family support. we - I have an older sister and a younger sister, there’s about two, two years between each of us. And ah my family know, as I say and I still have the bad habit of going into hiding when I’m not travelling so well. But they now, they now know that and Mum’ll say things like, you know, she’ll, you know, she might ring up one day, how you going Paul? And oh yeah, yeah and then she might ring back a few days later and she’ll say how are you and then she’ll say what time are you home today? I am coming around. I say what do you mean you’re coming around? She says I know you’re not well. I want to come and see you. And you just don’t say no to mum.
 
You know I have, you know, I couldn’t measure the amount of respect I have for all my family. And ah and I know what she’s doing and she needs to do it unfortunately. Because I’m just not that good at reaching out and saying I’m struggling a bit. You know I’ve certainly - my path has continued and I’m definitely up a lot higher. You know you still have that bit of a, a fade but it’s all right. Without the support of my family, no way. I don’t even, I wouldn’t even be alive. I would be - not that I’d like to think about it but I reason, reasonably sure that would have been the outcome.
 
My sons they don’t know a great deal. I don’t know actually. I know they’re very internet savvy and they know that I do things with (organisation name) and of course they would know what that all means. And you know I remember I used to tell them the medication was cause I get headaches and [unclear] so I’ve told them a little bits you know. And they’re starting to know more but they’re kids, I want them to be kids. I don’t want them worrying about dad you know. But ah my family, my kids.
 
You know I’ve got some friends that know, maybe not everything, but they know enough that, you know, occasionally just give me a phone call. Or occasionally, you know, how are you travelling type thing. I don’t want people asking me every five minutes how you going, how you going and all that. But it’s nice just to get, you know, an email or something like that you know. 
 
 

Alice’s mother was her main support, noticing when things were ‘not quite right’. Her experiences...

Alice’s mother was her main support, noticing when things were ‘not quite right’. Her experiences...

Age at interview: 55
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 54
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
However, having said that, when I look back to my younger years I’d say anxiety was probably a theme rather than depression… ah, a lot of anxiety, anxiety about whether, you know, I’d done something right or whether it could’ve been better or, you know, wasn’t good enough or things like that and then as I got older, ah, and as, as I say, my late thirties or mid thirties I think, I probably would’ve started to get a bit depressed but at that time my mum was still alive and she - ‘cause she lived fairly close and we were all very close as a family, she was pretty good at noticing it and not labelling it - so she would make me laugh, she would pick me up, she would change the scene that we were in, she would do something that would change the whole mood. So rather than sit around and feel glum or anything like that or worry too much, ah, I always had her around to, I don’t know, lift things, and, and you know, help with the kids and things like that, because mum, when mum was around my marriage at that time was not great for various reasons and yeah, because I was studying so hard I needed her to help and to do, you know, things. 
 
 
But I think all these sort of, you know, threads of anxiety somehow and fear have just threaded their way through my life. And my mum was always the, ‘Yes you can do it, you can do whatever you want in life, you can do it, you can do it’, my father was always that ah… ‘You’re just a good average girl, nice personality’, so you know, it’d be, ‘You’d make a nice little nurse or a nice little teacher or something like that,’ whereas mum would be, ‘Whatever you want to be is fine’. So when I chose law, fine you choose law, that’s, you know, how it goes. So when she died I was floored. In fact I couldn’t actually take it in. I couldn’t seriously take it in. I did the eulogy at the funeral… I can’t, I can only, only vaguely remember that…and basically I just…yeah, just kind of went on as if, not as if nothing had happened, but I couldn’t allow it to process properly.
 
Older children were often understanding of a parent’s mental health condition and attempted to express empathy and support. When they did not readily do so, one mother experiencing depression created some rules to protect herself from what she thought were her children’s occasionally unreasonable expectations.
 

Akello established some boundaries with her children, so they became more self-sufficient and...

Akello established some boundaries with her children, so they became more self-sufficient and...

Age at interview: 45
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 44
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
They do and they give me space, especially my older one. He tells the younger ones to leave me alone, but I try to hide it so much. It’s only when I got to a point where I used to hit rock bottom and I wouldn’t take in anything, I would just be taken away by feelings that I couldn’t describe and the kids would know that it’s time to leave her alone. They wouldn’t ask me silly questions.
 
I had got to a point where I think I used to let my children use me or abuse - I can’t call it abuse, because they would ask for stupid things, you know, or they would cry because they can’t do a trick that they saw on telly - I can’t do this trick, I’m dumb, and that would affect me and I would try and tell them you know you’re not dumb, you’re alright, you’ll get to know it. They did going through practice but they would still cry, especially my middle child. 
 
And I got to a point where I thought, hey that’s enough. I don’t see why I should carry on their problems. They know - I stopped enabling them when they couldn’t do something and there’s - there are bits when they come crying, I can’t do this, I say of course you can. No I can’t. I say, it’s up to you. If you say you can’t then you won’t do it. How do you want me to help you? They say, I don’t know. I say, who can help you? It’s only you who can help yourself. I can’t help you.
 
Some people acknowledged that, due to the often isolating nature of depression, even when their families and friends were caring and supportive, they could not always take advantage of that support. However, sharing their experiences with others with depression was helpful for most people we talked with. A few also mentioned their concern about not overburdening others with their mental health problems.
 

Louise felt ‘self-absorbed’ during some phases of her depression and not able to benefit from the...

Louise felt ‘self-absorbed’ during some phases of her depression and not able to benefit from the...

Age at interview: 45
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 32
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I think because, you know, we, we're all connected to other people in some fashion and even when we have depression and mental illness, we tend to isolate there are still people connected to us and sort of caring and sort of loving us. 
 
But we don't sort of really see that ‘cause we're so self-absorbed, we just can't see out of the, the black hole.
 
Certainly - and even recently, my parents had quite worried about me and certainly with my work colleagues, not so much here at (organisation name), because they're understanding, but my previous workplaces. Even though they were understanding it puts pressure on them - yeah, it affects all of your relationships and some people are more understanding and some people aren't. yeah it just, it just affects all of your relationships.
 
What about when people have been understanding? Has there been a friend or a family member who - that has made a particular impression on you? Who was very understanding?
 
Yes. I think - I have one friend that I was working with. it was during my first bout of depression and she'd gone through some problems her, herself and she was the first person I told that I had depression and she was particularly understanding and supportive and I still see her now and we - we have nice deep conversations, which is really great.
 
But I guess with friends, some friends don't understand at all and it's important to remember not to burden them because they don't understand. But there are other friends that do understand, but you don't want to burden them either. But they are good to speak to you about certain things. It could be about one particular work thing or one particular relationship thing. Not to burden one person with everything.
 
Amelia talked about her parents’ attitudes towards discussing feelings when she was growing up and how roles change when children grow up and parents age. She also described how when she was experiencing perinatal depression, her husband was not able to recognise this as a problem nor offer support, but when Amelia experienced a subsequent episode of depression later in her life this changed. Her sense of relief after disclosing her depression to a friend and some extended family members was a common experience among many people we talked with. Amelia also described the sense of solidarity that accompanied learning that others were also struggling with mental health problems, and the valuable support she received from her teenage sons.
 

Amelia talked about her experiences of depression during childhood and adolescence, early...

Text only
Read below

Amelia talked about her experiences of depression during childhood and adolescence, early...

Age at interview: 51
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 38
HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Did you ever talk to your parents about that when you, at that time - how you felt?
 
No, I don’t think so, I did at all. I just told them I felt exhausted and, ah, I think I - I think I might have just said I really feel like I need to get away and [sighs] but I don't know how - I can't even remember how I explained that need. 
 
So didn’t, didn't feel comfortable enough telling them how you felt exactly?
 
No, I didn't feel I could do - I never - and I've never - like I never told them that I was, depressed or on medication or anything. I think, um, my father, also was very, very ill when I was young. He had very, very bad asthma. And, when we were little, we always heard, don’t expect daddy to live beyond the age of 40. The doctor's told us that daddy won't live beyond the age of 40. I had no idea how old he was, so I just thought oh well [laughs]. 
 
But, at the same time, you always had to not upset daddy. You always had to be good and quiet to not upset daddy. And, there was a point to me saying this. What was it? I know it was important. What was the question you just asked? Oh, did I ever talk to them? Yeah.
 
So, I think I really have this feeling still that I have to protect my parents. And now I really do. I mean they're terribly old and frail now. 
 
I really, really do have to protect them [laughs]. But I wouldn't, wouldn’t - I didn't really want to tell them stuff. I did tell them when my husband was planning to leave, because - but I just knew then, as a parent myself, that however horrible what your child is going through, you want to know about it. But the other stuff - it was stuff in my mind, and so I didn't have a right to feel that was horrible enough to [laughs] get help or...
 
And so when you, you talked about – now, looking back - that you think that you were having postnatal depression, were you able to talk to your husband about your feelings? Was he supportive? In ah, was he recognising that you were having a tough time?
 
I don’t think so. I think he's like really grown into that role. I, I think he, now, is very - generally, very understanding when I have, a low time. And I just tell him I'm feeling low, and he puts up with an awful lot of miserability [laughs]. And he, he, he generally can handle it and is very supportive. 
 
But I - I don’t think then - you know, like he could handle it for a few minutes at a time, but then it was too much; because, of course, he would not really understand, and wonder why, and wonder if it was because of him or whatever. And it took me a long time to figure out the pattern too and figure out, that I was feeling low. 
 
Sometimes you're just so busy feeling low, you don’t have that little chance to step back and recognise it's happening, cause you're so busy thinking that the world is in an end and everything's a complete waste of time. And you don’t just have that little way of standing back and saying oh, I'm feeling like the world's at an end and everything's a complete waste of time. I'm too busy thinking it. But no, I didn't find him terribly supportive at those times.
 
There's a very few colleagues and friends I've told – (friend’s name), and one other friend. I got really upset one day and I felt I needed to explain to her why. Friends - this - there's a friend I mentioned to you. I somehow or other we both let each other know that, we were on medication for depression. I've got two cousins and I can really clearly remember, we went - my cousin, who lives here, in (city name) - we went to visit th
For most, support was influential in the recovery process, and critical when they were at their most vulnerable. However, a few spoke of taking responsibility for themselves and appreciating any support received, recognising other people also had their own worries.
 

Clinton’s mother was an important source of support as she had also experienced depression. He...

Clinton’s mother was an important source of support as she had also experienced depression. He...

Age at interview: 38
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 19
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I've had just about all different reactions, and I've had about all different types of input from family, both positive and negative, that you could imagine. I've had some negative and some positive. For example, you know, my mum's been through so much, having been hospitalised with post natal depression, being on lithium, you know, diagnosed with major depression, and other things that she's been diagnosed with. That she's got so many pearls of wisdom to offer. 
 
She used to run a [mental health peer support group] group of her own, and so she's, you know, got all this fantastic knowledge. My dad used to be a social worker, so he's got all of this fantastic, ah, knowledge as well. But then again, you know, my dad was a social worker, but he never picked up that I'd been abused. My dad was a social worker, but he had no idea that I had major depression until someone else diagnosed it. So even a person who's, you know, trained in that field, and spends their day-to-day life dealing with others, and - and helping them get diagnosed doesn't always mean that they can see what's going on in their own patch. 
 
I must say that there are some members of my family who I feel disappoint - disappointment with. Great disappointment. After you had the courage to tell them you'd been sexually abused when you were 19, ah, and for them to meet that with surprise, and then silence, that's not - it's not conducive - you know, or someone else saying to you yeah, I was abused too. As in, you know, don't - don't think you're that good. You know, ah, so - but then again, some - you know, everyone of those family members who's given me something bad, you know, more than likely they've - they've also told me something positive as well. 
 
And I do know that, you know, I - I'm - I'm very lucky. My - my parents are - are still together. and I do know that everyone in my family loves me. And the people that love me in my family, do so unconditionally, and they just want me to be happy, and so that, for me, has become more than enough. 
 
Everyone else has their own life to lead, and everyone else has their own stuff to sort out. And so my expectations - I've become far more self-sufficient, and I just enjoy what my family can offer me. But I don't expect anything anymore. 
 
I was disappointed a lot, but that was probably because my expectations were too high, and I felt I deserved, you know, something like an Oscar winning movie, or something as - you know, the whole family's there to greet me, and everything ends happily. 
 
Although most people received some degree of support from their families, a few lacked parental support from an early age, which had a tremendous impact on their later life. But even then, people talked about feeling comforted by sharing these experiences with their siblings or partners.
 

When Millaa needed support, his parents were not able to provide it as they were struggling with...

Text only
Read below

When Millaa needed support, his parents were not able to provide it as they were struggling with...

Age at interview: 20
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 15
HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Can you talk a bit about how your parents responded to your moods, or did they notice that something was wrong or? 
 
Don’t, [shakes head] personally, I don't really think so. I think it was, because they were so caught up in their own depression and alcoholism and everything else, and their own troubles, and animosity, I don't think it really – they just, I just, we just became strangers in the same house. There wasn’t, there was no – the – [uses hand to demonstrate sequence of years] each passing year was like the lessening of emotional connection between us to the point where now I don't really [puts hand to mouth] – pardon me – I don’t really see them as parents, you know. And I see them more as just strangers that I live with, you know, because I've really lost the emotional tether [demonstrates with fingers] that bound us, you know. 
 
My sisters still have it, I think, but I don't really know. I mean, I want to get a tattoo on my arm here [indicates place on arm], of [initials of siblings names], which obviously says [word], but [letter], and then there's going to be like the stars between the [letter], ah, between the [letter] and the [letter] and the [letter]. and that's to stand for [siblings’ names], my siblings, because they're my family, you know. So I want to have them tattooed on my arm. 
 
But my parents, no, I don't have any real connection, you know, like... I mean, there's just, there’s so much over the past decade that has happened that's just, opened up a side of the parents, a side of your parents that probably most children don't really see, you know. A side where you've got to roll, roll your father over before he drowns in his own vomit, there’s the side where you've got to help your mum sort of not have a nervous breakdown or kill herself and, you know, there’s sides where you've got to be - yeah the adult before your time you know, and really deal with [looks down], really deal with a lot of BS that your parents are too sort of - they’re very, they’re actually quite accomplished at being you know, chronic invalids, really, but yeah. Just...
 
So where did you get support, as a 12-year-old?
 
I didn't. I didn’t. I didn’t, no. It was just me against the world [smiles], so to speak. Or me against my parents. No I didn’t. Because I was raised in a really, really weird sort of way. Not weird, but just different I guess. I have, I have my grandparents – my, my father's from [place name] so I don't have any real contact with his side of the family, because they all live in [place name]. But my mother is from here and she's been here since the second fleet, I think. Or her family has been. 
 
So I've got grandparents, both of them are still alive – her parents. but they're old and you can't, it’s just, you can’t really rely on older people that need people to take care of them to take care of someone else, you know what I mean, so it just. So that just wasn't really an option. Also, there's so many secrets that my family has that we just - like my grandmother didn't know about any of this abuse or anything like that till, until like about last year, early last year. 
 
Some people received unconditional support from their partners and spouses. This was particularly important in the absence of extended family members in the lives of people who had migrated to Australia.
 

When Ivan got better, he sometimes felt he was getting too much support from his partner, but he...

Text only
Read below

When Ivan got better, he sometimes felt he was getting too much support from his partner, but he...

Age at interview: 58
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 52
HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

It even irritates me now, but when it was important [partner] was with me almost 24 hours a day and it was her care, physical presence and care, it was the most wonderful thing feeling that a person understands you and this feeling is not simple, because you are not yourself, ‘Something strange is happening, who can understand you, hey, come on, compose yourself’. But she did understand. It is not an immense affection and because of our love and in the name of love…no, she is generally a very gentle and caring person, but now it irritates me sometimes, those phone calls ‘Is everything all right?’ ‘Of course it is!’ A bit too much which becomes a bit too hard. Yes, I am getting together, so what…and her care in those days was something I needed. I needed someone to understand me and not to tell me what to do or to force me to go to the shopping centre, in a claustrophobic, crazy ambience, no, but to say, ‘Come on, let’s move out’…you know. 

A few spoke of having to reorganise their whole domestic lives so that they could be helped with their depression. In few instances, wives who were at home went back to work, to give husbands suffering from depression the space and time to get better.
 

When Peter had to stop working, his wife took on the main breadwinning role which reduced the...

When Peter had to stop working, his wife took on the main breadwinning role which reduced the...

Age at interview: 49
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 36
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I would stay uh and stay for days at a time in bed and [raises eyebrows] I was a cranky son of a gun. And the kids wanted to know why it wasn’t happening and you know, and I couldn't do anything about it. And you know, my wife stood in, took in, stood up and, and took care of the situation and I'm sure that she was pretty fearful of the situation. But by that stage the superannuation income protection had run out and she was wondering what's going on and how were we going to live and how we were going to pay the mortgage? And I couldn't do anything - I, you know, [shrugs] I couldn't even dial the telephone. 
 
And for this I am eternally indebted to my wife - she's such a strong woman, you know? And, and she had three kiddies that, you know, and I was, you know, I did what I could but, you know, between being cranky and depressed and – it must have been horrible for her.
 
Look, I'd, as uh - well first of all you know, understanding from my wife. I mean I, I think, you know, she could have gone, ‘You're all too hard, I'm out of here’. And [shakes head] and I wouldn't have blamed her because I probably was a real arsehole, when I was really sick, you know? And if I wasn't an arsehole I didn't want to go anywhere or do anything, or anything like that. So you know, that was, that was very important. 
 
Some people talked about a journey that their family members went through before they were able to support them - in terms of educating themselves about depression and relevant support services. For others, couples' counselling was helpful to maintain relationships. Others talked at length about feeling unsupported by their spouses throughout their depression and this having consequences for their relationships. For a few older people, becoming physically dependent on family members sometimes led to feelings of isolation and abandonment. Such feelings were particularly prominent when spouses were often unavailable due to their involvement in other activities. Comodor was hurt when his depression was met by disbelief from his wife, who claimed he was ‘just lazy’.
 

While Emma was experiencing perinatal depression, her husband was unable to talk with her about...

While Emma was experiencing perinatal depression, her husband was unable to talk with her about...

Age at interview: 33
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 32
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I think [husband] was in denial about the whole experience and even now he still, we still, ah that's what - it's something we do argue about. Is that I don't think he supported me in that but I, uh, I think it's just scared him beyond wits' belief because, oh, I guess I don't know, I was the strong one in our little duo. And, I wasn't myself, wasn’t at all the character that he knew. but it still hurts to think that he didn't take a day off work or can, you know, he'd ask how you were, how I was. 
 
But, uh, when I was upset and, at night and what have you, he'd sometimes get angry if I'd woke him up. And I know that's something we've got to resolve, that's a whole total different issue. But, yes, that's something that needs closure on it I think. Because it, we do want three children and I'm absolutely terrified that this is going to come back again. It may not, it may they say.
 
And even, I can't, I know we need to talk to a counsellor because he still doesn't, he's still almost in denial. He doesn't understand how bad it was and when I talk about, even the fact that I wanted to run in front of a bus, no you didn't. Sort of brushes it off and it causes me just to not even bother talking about it because it, I get too frustrated by it. So we, I mean she does relationship counselling too as a counsellor so, and because she knows us maybe it's a good idea to go back to her again for that. Now that I can go with sort of a different agenda or a different set of issues. Because having a child's hard enough on a relationship, let alone one being depressed. It would break up a lot of people I think, could easily do it.
 
Because I think I was scared enough of it myself and he was running away from it by going to work every day. You know, I can remember crying and crying, trying to do [younger son’s] nappy and poo's everywhere and I'm crying. I couldn't see because I'm crying and he just kissed me on the forehead and kissed the kids on the forehead and walked off and went to work.
 
It broke my heart and it still does make me feel that. You just, you - I don't have the word - you just feel, yeah, unsupported and I don't know. He definitely prioritised work over any thing I had on. I can remember waking up and saying [husband], do you remember last night? I was this close to walking in front of a bus. It no actually I don't know if I was attention seeking as well. I don't know if I had those suicidal thoughts because I wasn’t getting support from the one person I needed - my husband. And so was I attention seeking? Looking for his acknowledgement of how serious this was by, by sort of making it a bit more, intense? Or a bit more dramatic or?
 
 

Comodor was supportive of his wife having her own activities, but wished she showed more...

Comodor was supportive of his wife having her own activities, but wished she showed more...

Age at interview: 77
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 65
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
My wife isn't sure that I've got depression. So that's when we have a fight. Because if she doesn't think I've got depress, got depression I'm lazy. I won't get out of bed. But I've never been lazy in my life. During my working life I've never been lazy. I've enjoyed life, every bit of it.
 
So you think that that she maybe, she maybe doesn't understand you well?
 
Well, that would, that would be subject to two provisos. One is this that she accepts I've got depression and the second is that she would know what to do about it to help me, right?
 
But do you know how, how, in what way would you like to be supported by her? Like what would you ideally want from her yourself?
 
Better understanding I suppose, that's all. You see another thing that doesn't help the depression, makes it worse, since I lost the sight in one eye and this one has macular degeneration and I'm not active unless I have the oxygen machine. I've had to stop playing tennis. I've had to stop playing golf. I've had to stop playing outdoor bowls. I've got no sporting life at all. That's why I'm mad on sports on TV. I mean I used to be out three and four times a week - pardon me - from the…
 
From the lung.
 
…lung trying to get up.
 
So you miss - do you miss not being able to be outside, outdoors more?
 
Mm. It's getting harder and harder.
 
See I wouldn't like to live after, to look after me, right? And she's got to have a life of her own and I don't begrudge her at all. She plays bowls, she plays golf, she plays tennis, she plays bridge Fridays and Saturdays. She's a born organiser of mothers' clubs, right? Arranging lunches and everything else. And she spends Thursday afternoons at the local library, a volunteer. And she's got her church on a Sunday morning. She has a very active life and good on her, she'd need - she'd need to have an active life to put up with me, right? 
 
 

Belinda talked about diverse experiences of support from family and friends at different phases...

Belinda talked about diverse experiences of support from family and friends at different phases...

Age at interview: 35
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 25
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Yeah, the first time the people that I was sort of hanging around with at that time, who I don’t have any contact with now, I think they meant to be supportive but I remember feeling at the time it wasn’t, their behaviour wasn’t helpful. So essentially I was told that I was fragile, from my social supports and that I wasn’t allowed to go out and I wasn’t allowed to hang out with my friends or talk on the phone or anything that would cause my fragility to break. 
 
I always them as, I always saw that as a big thing for me, that they were very supportive in that way. So when I moved away from my personal supports at that stage, it was a big break, it was a substantial, you know I left essentially a family behind when I left a relationship and it left a major hole for me. I was very lucky that I had my workmates and also some old friends from high school in fact who had not been close to me for a long time, but you know with significant break ups we always need to go back to try to find our old friends who mean a lot to us (smiles). And they, I had two in particular who just really stepped in and were really fantastic and continue to be in relation to my depression and understand that sometimes I just need to have downtime and understand that I can’t, you know, I can’t always be up.
 
And yeah, so that’s, how I sort of evolved from it, I suppose. And my own family, my, I have all my family, except for me, are in the medical field and one of my sisters is a doctor, well both are doctors but one of them is a doctor but has chosen to leave the medical profession, and she was particularly supportive of me trying you know other things other than medicine other than you know pharmaceuticals to work with my depression.
 
Friends
 
Support and understanding from friends was important to most people we talked with. Varying experiences were described, ranging from being provided with ongoing support and care from a few trusted friends, through to being told to ‘snap out of’ their depression. Some talked about feeling neglected by friends when their depression was more acute, but still supported once they got through a major episode. Others described feelings of living through depression alone. If support was offered, it was very important for most people that this be done in a non-judgemental and non-patronising manner. In some instances, people acknowledged that feeling alone was a result of concealing their depression from others. A few people who migrated to Australia and did not have extended family members around particularly appreciated the support of friends.
 

Artaud talked about different experiences of support he received from his brother and his friends...

Artaud talked about different experiences of support he received from his brother and his friends...

Age at interview: 43
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 20
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Poor, on Austudy, no money, partner - no money, very poor, living in a house, very isolated. As I became more and more unwell my friends, well a lot of my friends disappeared - which is pretty much a true experience of anybody with a mental illness, you know. My friends were great on Nicaragua or great on South Africa and apartheid but not terribly good on assisting their psychotic and depressed friend that they'd known for a while.
 
And my brother is a doctor and he's got seven kids and he's a good brother and looks after me and, you know, he you know. He's going well and - but we, my brother and I were always very close. We still are close. We were very close in, he was very good to me. He looked after me.
 
So we were, I was very lucky to get two very close friends and that made a difference, you know? Made a big difference having people who you could talk to and then I remember I - when I was about 30 – 28, 29 I went back to do social work. And again I met some, two close friends that I'm close to now and that made a difference having people. Having people in your life, you know, have been more than a diagnosis or a label, you know. 
 
Social support, just being there. Just talking to you, just going out for dinner. Just when you, when you know you're a bit alienated and lonely, being able to ring somebody up and not talk about being depressed because, you know, that's not very helpful. But just to be able to talk about other things, you know, talk about, talk about, you know, what the footy's like or you know, what movie you're going to go and see. So just normal everyday things.
 
 

Ralph talked about his first experience with depression 35 years ago and reactions he received...

Ralph talked about his first experience with depression 35 years ago and reactions he received...

Age at interview: 67
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 35
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
People would say, of course, they'd tell you to snap out of it, which is ridiculous, you can't. And no-one with depression wants to hear that. Nor do they want to hear, ‘Well you know, you've got a good life, and you know, nice house, why do you feel like this? You shouldn't feel like that’. That's ridiculous too, because people in, in all sorts of situations will get 
depression.
 
The support with my wife was good and the kids didn't know of course, [runs hand through hair] they knew there was a change in me, that I was acting strange, but. A lot of friends sort of moved away a bit, those that knew when I decided to withdraw away, because I wasn't feeling well, they didn't ah sort of come around helping or looking to give assistance. Well I suppose - which is understandable back 35 years ago - it's probably understandable now. That they think someone's a bit silly or strange or having odd spells, they don't want to get involved. I – and I suppose if I hadn't been through this, I’d, I would probably feel the same. Because you don't, you don’t understand what's going on, unless you've had it, I think. 
 
 

After her separation Kymberly, an immigrant to Australia, lost most of the friends she had met...

After her separation Kymberly, an immigrant to Australia, lost most of the friends she had met...

Age at interview: 47
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 45
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Loneliness is, is probably my biggest thing (upset). All my old friends are gone. My friends, my friends - your friends - they've been beautiful to me, very supportive. When the relationship is mainly through my husband, but because my husband has been unresponsive to his ex - his best friends. He has, he's had two best friends in his life and he's been unresponsive to them and they're such beautiful people. They're coming to me and, and supporting me as much as they're supporting, or trying to support, [husband] even though [husband’s] not responding. So I do have some old friends there. 
 
But I don't want to be a burden on anybody, you know, I can't, if I fall into financial difficulty or something like that or if I develop an illness I don't know who or if anybody will be there, you know, for me. I feel very alone, profoundly alone in that way. My children are both very young, so it's not like I have older children that could help me. My sisters, I don't know if they would help me. I don't know if they love me enough to, to help me (upset).
 
I have a lot of nice new friends that have just come into my life and sometimes I think that's sad because no one's known me for more than a year.  But then maybe that's just the way it's supposed to be right now. They're the right friends in my life at the moment and they're encouraging me and supporting me and, and loving me and, and accepting me for who I am. And I'm being true to myself now so I don't have to put on airs and graces for anybody and present myself differently so that they like me. They like me for who I am and what I am now. So, you know, even though they haven't known me long I hope that they'll be, they seem like important people to me now and I hope that they'll be friends for a long time.
 
 

Rosie described the kind of support she appreciated or would like to receive.

Rosie described the kind of support she appreciated or would like to receive.

Age at interview: 48
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 44
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Friends definitely, ongoing support rather than that support for the first couple of weeks after someone dies and then okay, she’s fine now and everyone gets back on with their lives. I said that to the counsellor at the Coroner’s Court the other week and you know, she said but people don’t, for me the fact I’ve lost a child is foremost in my mind and lives with me every minute of every day.
 
Other people have got other things, they don’t think oh by the way, Rosie’s lost a child, oh by the way, Rosie’s lost a child, oh by the way, Rosie’s lost a child. They don’t remember, they don’t think about it, they don’t care. They get on with their lives and it’s not until there’s a form of memory. But you just wish that you know, just because I’m happy and I’m an outgoing person and I’m playing softball and I’m hitting the ball and I’m having a drink, and - it doesn’t mean to say that that’s, I’m happy the whole time. 
 
The friends that gave me books at the funeral, that was fantastic, so that was really good. Only a few of those friends, text messages on Mother’s Day, I got nothing for Mother’s Day this year. Not even my son. Ah, so it’s the anniversaries that are the hardest. The first year is definitely the hardest and everyone said that. And in the first year I wanted to punch them in the face again, you know shut up. But you know, in hindsight it’s true. But it could be four years, it could be four minutes, it could be four weeks, it could be 40 years, it’s still to a large extent just as hard that you’ve lost a child. It’s just not quite as raw because you’ve dealt, you’ve learnt to deal with it.
 
You’ve learnt to understand and know your emotions and one other thing is to I try to, I don’t pamper myself because again – childhood stuff, we never got pampered you know, but my form of pampering, so it might be a you know, give myself a face mask, you know, light the candles, have a nice glass of wine, sit down and read my book and watch TV and kind of just relax and chill out time. 
 
I think it depends on each individual person too. Because I guess I’m an independent person and like my own company. So I don’t want people smothering me but I want, I want the support that reaches out and says if you need me, I’m here and I understand how you’re feeling but I don’t want people knocking at my door every three minutes and bringing casseroles for the next 20 years. So each person’s individual and different.
 
But text messages on all the important days. New Year’s, Christmas, birthday, [older son]’s birthday, the day he died, people don’t remember on the day he died. And I understand that. Reality, I understand it but emotionally I want, I want someone. I had one friend who I worked with, except Mother’s Day this year, that’s the first time. She’s forgotten and that’s probably because she lost her Mum recently. She’s been great and that’s what you appreciate. So you might not see her physically or go out with her for six months but she texts and says, I’m thinking of you and I know how hard it is. 
 
That would be my ideal support. That people just reach out and they don’t have to say much, they don’t have to actually do very much, if anything, just a, an email or a text message or a phone call to say, I hope you’re okay, we’re thinking of you, if you need anything we are here.
 


Last reviewed January 2016.
Last updated January 2016.

 

donate
Previous Page
Next Page