Graeme Holdsworth

Graeme’s Lived Experience Story

Late in my life, I came down with a potentially terminal illness – serious depression. I was the first member of my family to represent Victoria in sport, the first to graduate from university, and the first to suffer from depression and attempt to take my own life.

There is a common misconception that depression and anxiety represent a weakness of character. We should all know that depression and anxiety don’t discriminate, they are real illnesses – but the good news is, there is recovery.

I was a good student who loved sports. I married after university and had three beautiful children, and life was full of community, sport and work. I loved the energy and excitement of project managing buildings including the Crown Casino development in Melbourne, the redesign of Sydney’s GPO and the Melbourne Convention Centre.

However, during my last couple of projects, every decision was too difficult. I would initiate conflict, I became unreliable and I started to drink too much. I would say I was on site when I was home, trying to get out of bed. My sense of purpose and authority was gone.

While visiting my GP for another purpose, he asked me some pointed questions. This led to a diagnosis of depression. My self-talk was negative, I was removed from a contract with a major client and it stripped my confidence. Finding a new job was difficult because of my age, industry knowledge of my condition and my attitude. My marriage broke down as I became more distant.

The turning point for me was when I attempted to take my own life, and I was saved. I was admitted to a private psychiatric facility, and I felt safe for the first time in a long time. I have visited there several times in my recovery journey.

Over a two-year period, I was prescribed the full range of medication. Finding the treatment that worked for me was not an easy journey, but with the support of my psychiatrist we found options that started improving my mental health.

I wouldn’t wish my experience on anyone, but I have learned some important things:

  • Depression and anxiety are common, but treatable conditions.
  • Support is available and it is important to seek support early – the sooner the better.
  • With the right treatment, you can recover.

The Suicide Prevention Australia Lived Experience Panel gives me the opportunity to give something back and help other people. Suicide is complex and every story is different, but it can be prevented.