Black dogs can bark the loudest of all
SOMETIMES the hardest conversations are the most worthwhile.
We all know someone - a friend, work colleague or family member - who suffers or has experienced some form of depression.
In recent months the physical damage of the floods may have been repaired, the waters receded and the sun is out, but the mental scars still linger.
I know from having listened to people talking, many are still feeling the impact.
As someone who has had the black dog barking on her shoulder, I can tell you it can be a real challenge to see the joy through the darkness.
People suffering from depression often seem as though nothing's wrong.
They don't want to show their vulnerability to their mates, have their boss think they aren't up to the job or their children or partner think less of them.
So with RUOK Day? Coming up next month, I challenge you to ask the question of your family, friends, workmates and peers.
Don't wait for September 14.
In fact, don't wait another night or day.
Just a gentle 'how are you going?' in a quiet moment by the coffee machine, at the post box or in the supermarket could be the start of someone putting the sunshine back into their life.
Too often depression goes undiagnosed and untreated as people are reluctant to speak up.
A few Octobers ago, a much-loved member of my community killed himself.
The sadness is still felt and the concern if such a respected man, such a good, kind, intelligent and decent person with a loving family and friends felt such despair, someone who seemed to have it all what hope was there for the rest of us?
But I'm here to tell you there is hope.
Depression can appear in many shapes and forms.
Perhaps someone you know is being bullied or worse, is instigating the bullying behaviour.
Maybe they have become withdrawn or seem angrier.
So be a friend, ask RUOK?
Take them out for a cuppa, pop over with a home-baked dinner or a packet of jam biscuits or ask them to go the local car boot sale with you.
Don't give up on your mate, but don't do this on your own either.
Get them to professional support; this is too big a burden for any one person to carry.
And if you are suffering from depression, please speak up.
I know what it's like; I've been there and asking for assistance is bloody difficult.
Reaching out was much harder than anything I'd ever done before.
I felt like a loser for admitting I could not cope on my own.
Now I've been on both sides of the black dog.
Sometimes you feel the barking just won't stop.
But it will.
So please, take that step.
Ask someone RUOK?
And if someone else asks - be honest.
If they have the guts to ask you owe it to them and yourself to be honest.
Even an 'I don't know,' is a good place to start.
If I can do this, you can. Believe me, it's worth it.
Need help? Get it here:
Lifeline 1311 14
Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636
Men's Line 1300 78 99 78