We still have a long way to go to to overcome the stigma of mental health issues.
We still have a long way to go to to overcome the stigma of mental health issues. OtmarW

The agony of a loved one going missing

LAST Thursday was a day full of experiences I'd like to never live through again.

It started with a phone call to tell me my lovely, funny, good-looking friend and neighbour was missing, presumed dead by his own hand.

Mark suffers from depression and anxiety. As do I. Both of us use the ocean as psychologist/counsellor/medication. He is a surfer but also kayaks on the lake, has a stand-up paddleboard, and generally engages in all possible water sports.

His life had started to unravel after a terrible year of accidents, illness and personal tragedy; family, friends and others around him were trying to help. I spent Thursday morning looking in my backyard and those of absent neighbours for his body. I can't describe the horror of opening shed doors, hoping to not find him dead.

A meltdown happened last Sunday week, resulting in assessment at the local hospital. Inexplicably, medical staff deemed him fit to be sent home.

He left a note to his family saying they will be well provided for, and bolted on foot on Wednesday evening with nothing but a phone. There's been no sign of him since.

Tears have been shed with his wife; she still believes he's gone bush to clear his head. With no water, food, money, shelter or clothing.

All I can think to do is cook for them; friends have arrived from Sydney to co-ordinate search parties.

The one glimmer of light in all of this has been the extraordinary response from the tiny community of which he is a well-liked and respected member. People are knocking on doors, handing out fliers, walking through tick and snake-infested national park and generally doing anything they can, including walking his dogs, mowing his lawn and providing meals.

One thing is abundantly clear. We still have a long way to go to to overcome the stigma of mental health issues. I speak about my own battles in a calm, matter-of-fact way often; not whining or venting, just the truth - that depression is never far away. Nearly everyone I mention it to is taken aback that I speak of it freely. \

We owe it to ourselves and others to bring it out into the light. You often hear of people with depression being unable to ask for help; Mark had the opportunity to get help and for some reason we may never know (shame, perhaps, or a reluctance to appear vulnerable?) he knocked it back.

Lifeline: 13 11 14; Suicide Callback Service: 1300 659 467