He's 23 popular, funny, smart, and caring. Oliver's the last person you'd imagine would suffer depression, but at 14 he began a slide into darkness that gradually became unbearable. Here, Oliver and his friends, Liam, Connor, Melissa and Ashleigh share their journey of understanding and the importance of staying connected.
Read the transcript of Oliver's story
Oliver's story of holding on to hope
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I think. I mean Oliver's been just a real cheeky guy
Always happy to catch up with mates.
Oh my God. The amount of trouble he used to get us in cause we'd just laugh in class way too much.
Very, very funny guy. Like he's always always want to have a laugh about anything and can make humor out of anything too which was a good quality he's always had
He's always just having a smile on, or a party on, he makes funny, funny jokes and things like that.
It was always a really cheerful fella
pulling the Mickey just being just the funny one of the group, you know,
Bit of a larrikin I'd say
He's the best. Like he's just the best. And that's why, you know, it's funny to think that someone's so happy and that everyone has this opinion of can just, sorry not be that person. Like first time I saw him down, like that was just the biggest shock for me. And at first, yeah, I didn't know what to say because I was like, this is, this is not you like, I didn't know how to talk to you without laughing and you know, cracking jokes at each other and taking the Mickey out of each other. So yeah, never judge a book by its cover. I guess
This is Oliver Heywood's story. He's 23 popular, funny, smart, and caring. The last person you'd imagine would suffer depression, but at 14 he began a slide into darkness that gradually became unbearable. Here, Oliver and his friends, Liam, Connor, Melissa and Ashliegh share their journey of understanding and the importance of staying connected.
A lot of them. Pretty much all my friends are kind of similar in the sense that we, you know, kind of want to go out. We want to play sports, we want to, you know, do something and be active. But I think I in a way like in a way, I was the only one who was kind of sheltering myself away from people because of how I was feeling. Um, and whether or not I was the only one feeling that I wasn't too sure. I never really talked to anyone about it, especially at that age. So
Yeah. No we didn't know like how serious it was. Um, coz I guess no one really talks about it as much in, in your friendship groups as much as you probably should. Cause you know, people probably feel a bit embarrassed or ashamed of feeling a certain way cause everyone seems to be happy and everything, but it's not always the case.
I think that kind of relates to me thinking it was just a normal part of being a teenagers. You know, just going through all these emotions and not being motivated to do anything at all. I thought that was kind of a normal and I, um, didn't really tell my parents about it because I didn't think it was anything of note really.
Well, I certainly didn't know how to, to deal with, how he was coping, or no one had like a manual to go by. If that makes sense
to be honest. I didn't I how to bring it up in person. So I shot him a message and asked him what was going on cause he wasn't himself and I was starting to get really worried about him. He started, you know, not really talking to anyone or hanging out with our normal friendship group and not being himself in class. So yeah, I am. I felt something was up and sure enough, it was
After I left school, I enrolled in a business course at CQU and I did that for about three weeks. And then I thought it was the most boring thing on planet earth. So I dropped out. Um, and then for the next couple of years, I just kind of worked, um, you know, close to full time, um, went traveling a bit here and there. Um, and then in 2017 I started, um, a nursing diploma. So in my second semester during my placement, which was full time as well, um, that's when I, my feeling started to manifest a lot more, um, and become a lot more severe. Um, and yeah, I went and saw like a counselor they, they recommended and I got to do it for free. So I thought, why not?
He was pretty good early on at saying, um, and being open about it, and said, I reckon I've got this, that and that.
I really struggled as to how to help him after we'd had conversations about it, like what I could do to further help him rather than just him talking about it.
They kind of gave you like a form and it would kind of say statements, um, that would, um, be in regard to how you're feeling or what you're thinking, um, your actions around people or in normal situations. And it would give you, you know, a grading scale. Um, and you would, I think it was, you know, from like one to five or something like that. You'd circle it, they'll give you a score at the end and then that will give you kind of a, um, a diagnosis in a way of how severe or not severe your depression anxiety was. So I got severe depression and anxiety, so pretty much the highest of the high. I mean, I knew like my feelings weren't like great in terms of, they were pretty bad cause it was the worst I'd ever been, but I didn't expect it to be kind of severe. I think for me, hearing the word severe kind of really made it stand out to me a bit more.
We were sort of aware, uh, of his changes from his personality. He'd be a bit more distant and um, sort of leave, uh, group events earlier than he normally would've. Um, just sort of like isolated himself a bit more. So we sort of, you know, tried to ask, you know, what's going on mate, you know, we're always here if you need something.
And it took us a long time to realize that it was more serious.
So I'll just be in a lecture and then just all of a sudden I'll just start, I'll just get distracted, start thinking, and then I'll just have a panic attack in a way. And then I would just go out and then go home and then shelter myself away for the day. It's probably isn't the healthy, healthiest thing to do, but it was just so exhausting, like always, you know, thinking and not doing necessarily. Um, and then in terms of, um, depression, it was just, you know, kind of as soon as I, I'll go through kind of a routine almost on autopilot, um, and then I'll get home and then just either watch Netflix or YouTube or just play video games and not really get enjoyment out of it. I just did it because it was a, um, a filler of time in a way. And I'll just do that until I felt tired. Um, and then go to sleep and then just start all over again.
It kind of did escalate at one point, uh, where we just didn't really know that it was that bad.
As the months passed, Oliver's depression got worse. He lost interest in things he'd onced loved, like running and hiking and even had to force himself to leave the house.
When I finally got a job with my diploma, it just straight away I started feeling like a bit depressed, not really anxious but more depressed cause I knew it was at least a place I was working in. It was people basically coming in there to die and they weren't in a good, They were very unhealthy. And um, and I don't know that, that just affected me a lot more than I thought it would. Cause I mean obviously with nursing it's, it's very much about compassion for another person. It's very much caring for other people. But, um, during my diploma when I was at its worst, I mean I had, I didn't feel like I had anything to give and even if I had something to give in terms of love or compassion or, um, or anything like that, I had to be able to give it to myself first because the enjoyment of nursing is really kind of feeling, um, those feelings when you're helping someone out. But, you know, I didn't feel anything because I had really nothing, you know, I had no feelings for myself at that point. So.
Ollie would open up about certain things, but you could tell when he didn't even have the answers to my questions himself, which I think upset him even more because he was just so confused as to why he was feeling the way he was feeling.
I think, because we were all so young and hadn't experienced anything with mental health. None of us knew what to look for. We just thought it was a odd behavior.
So I was in a relationship for like two and a half years. Um, and during the, I'd kind of gone through phases, um, of being, you know, depressed or anxious or, um, and you know, throughout the relationship it was quite up and down. But then towards the end there was about a three month period where I just really couldn't. Um, I really didn't feel like myself. I couldn't give a lot of effort or anything like that. And I just felt, um, felt wrong for me to continue to be in that if I knew I wasn't giving 100% into it. So I broke things off and then afterwards it kind of, I dunno, it just something clicks that, you know, I missed out on something good. And, you know, it just kinda made me want to retrace my steps, but I couldn't do it. I couldn't, you know, change the past I guess. And I guess that kind of led me to, you know, doubting myself a lot and the decisions I make and my self confidence, my self esteem, everything like that, I just started second guessing it. Um, and yeah, I think that just turned into a pretty vicious cycle that I couldn't get out of for awhile.
He was home alone, so he'd been sitting with his thoughts all day and yeah, it didn't surprise me. He was trying so many other things to distract him and on the outside Ollie can come across as just the best happy go Larry kind of guy. Um, but distractions can only distract for so long, I guess until the demons inside of him can took over and
Kind of just go to a week where I guess the want for everything was kind of gone. I didn't want to do the things that, you know, I usually always wanted to do, which is see my family, see my friends, go out and do stuff, be outside, be adventurous, go play sports or any like that. I didn't want to do anything. And, you know, I know there's times in life where you kind of got to force yourself to do stuff that you don't want to do, but when you don't want to do the stuff that you know you live for, in a way, it's very, very difficult, um, to keep going. And I think I just kept kind of thinking more and more and more, and then it just kind of got to a night where I was just like, this is it. It's, you know, I can't do this anymore. I can't find myself wanting anything at all. Um, you know, I don't really see, you know, and then it just got to a point where, you know, I didn't want to live and that's kind of like the final straw. So. Yeah.
Um, he called me one night, um, and he was, he was really not in a good place and he was, um, but he was very peaceful about it, which was the scary part.
I think that night I was kind of just, I was alone because my parents were over in New Zealand and, um, and um, I kinda just sent like a message to my friends just kind of, you know, saying I love you guys, thank you for everything. And I was kind of just, um, I guess just finding like picking how I was gonna do it and you know, and I was going through, you know, the processes in my head and stuff like that. I was really thinking about it and I was kind of, I'd made the decision to do it, I just have to go do it. Um, but
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He messaged, we have a group chat of sort of our groups from schools. So he messaged that group in a very, Umm. Just not in a very good way, like basically saying goodbye like, and we, we sort of got it, we knew that at that point. Like we knew that he was struggling a little bit. And we were like freaking out, like, Oh my God, this is not good. So a few people were actually away at the time.
No, I didn't see that message until the next day, I was out of service. And I was woken up and I though shit. What's happened last night? Is he still here?
And it was only me and another girl that were in Brisbane like able to quickly let go over to his house at maybe, I think it was like 11 o'clock at night or something like that. Um, but he just basically said, you guys have been great, love you goodbye. Something like that. And so that's sort of just like really hits you hard. You sort of just start shaking like, no, no, no, this is not happening sort of thing. But um basically like rushed over to his house and he was just crying. So we kind of got there at a good time, I guess.
To be honest, we didn't really talk much. I asked him a million times what happened, you know, what triggered this, so bad? But he didn't really have any answers. So we just sat there and cried together and just, yeah, kind of just sat in silence and just were there for each other and I just, yeah, I didn't want to leave him alone.
I didn't really know what to do. So I called him to sort of, I guess because of instinct, you kind of speak as if it's any other day. Um, but obviously, you know something's wrong, but I think I just sort of said like, how, how are you going? Um, um, I asked if his family was there and um, does he need, does he need us to come see him? Or does he want to come hang at our house?
My friends and family are just the most fantastic people and they just had such an influx of support from them. I had a couple of friends who came over to my house at night and you know, stayed with me until I fell asleep. And then, um, my, one of my closest friends, he was living in London at the time, but he couldn't really help. But he told his mum and his mum came rushing over at four 30 in the morning and woke me up to go take me to the hospital to get a mental health assessment. Um, and then she told my parents and my parents left their tripped trip halfway through to come see me. And then from there I just had all of my friends just always messaging me and calling me and making sure that I was okay. And that kind of I guess in a way made me realize that I should, you know, should change.
Previously I haven't really dealt with anything like that. Um, I, yeah, I haven't really experienced it firsthand, like pretty heavy until that, that night really. Yeah, just sort of just happened real quickly
It wasn't a good feeling, I mean you don't really know what, what to do. Cause I'd personally, I, I'm not experienced with that sort of thing, but um, especially when its a friend of yours, you don't really want to believe it. It's like not in that the situation.
I think it's the courage just comes from, you know, trying to be there for your mates as best as you can. So you'd want people to do that to you if you were in the reverse situation. So you'd want somebody to, you know, help you if you're really, really in a bad place. Um, so I guess it's not really about courage, it's more like how you'd want to be treated if you were in that position. I guess.
You know, I want to be around people who are very happy, very healthy and very okay with themselves and that's what I need to do and not be around people who are not like that, I guess.
. I still think that best thing you can do is not change, keeping your behaviour the same. Because if they see a change in their friends behaviour, I think they hate the idea, that they're a burden or they're not being treated equally.
I think that was kind of a bit of a, a period of kind of figuring out, because I'm very much a person who needs to plan things before I do anything. I can't just spontaneously do something. Um, so I spent kind of like a month really planning on what I should do to figure this out and to put myself through it. And there were some dark days in there, obviously not as bad, but um, but it did kind of get better. I'd just kept really busy. I just like finish that semester, my second semester. So I was on holiday so I had heaps of time on my hands. So I really tried to keep myself busy. I worked a lot. I was always, you know, trying to hang out with people.
Another huge, if not greater contributor, was the fact that you know all his mates rallied around him and were always there for him. And made that blatantly clear to him too.
So we had to make it more of an effort to not only go out and do things and invite him, but we had to push him to come when he sort of didn't want to come I guess.
Well knowing what I know now, it's always just, um, first like always checking in with friends or if you noticing that the acting different, um, just straight up ask them, you know, what's going on. Cause they wouldn't have the courage to go up to someone and say, Oh, I'm in a bad place. Cause they'll feel embarrassed. So if you're like noticing someone acting weird, not like they normally are, ask them what's going on. Um, always make sure people are around them and that they know that they have people around them and make sure the family, um, is checking up on them as well if they're not nearby. But yeah, definitely, um, just being around for them and also knowing that they can come to you if at any time and it's like a safe space. So yeah, that's what I pass on.
There was a book that I started reading, um, it's called the power of now by Eckhart Tolle and that is a book that really focuses on being more present, not focusing on what's ahead or what's behind you, focusing on right now. I started reading that book and that really helped me out a lot. Yeah. Just really focusing as much as I can on right now. If I'm out with friends, really focusing on the conversation or anything like that. Um, and then on top of that as well, really just trying to find out what makes me very, very happy. I found that photography really works for me, gave me an excuse to get out of the house, be a bit creative, think in a different manner. Um, and then I started running and that helped a lot. And then from there, because I was surrounded by a lot of things that made me happy, I became a lot more appreciative of the very small things in life and that really helped me out. It's just being a lot more appreciative and it takes time. It's not like a click of the fingers kind of thing.
People are more vulnerable than I first thought because, Ollie I had a lot of similarities like when at school, the same age, played rugby together. And I like to think that we have a similar humor and um, we've been friends for a long time. So I guess the fact that it could happen to you, it could happen to him, that's what playing in my mind quite a lot. Yeah. It's kind of an eyeopening to be honest
One of the good things with our experience with Ollie is that, Um, it certainly has broken the ice for all of other mates of ours to come forward with such, uh, experiences, friends of mine and uh, in a, in a same group with Ollie have been more inclined to share what they going through as a result of what he went through.
Reach out and it's okay to reach out. And if you are struggling to find someone then really do rely on things like Lifeline to talk to because yeah, talking to a stranger sounds bizarre from the outside, but it's actually the best thing to reach out. You don't have to stay on the phone for long. If you're not feeling it, you can hang up whenever, they dont force you to to um, you know, if you've reached out to a friend and you have a little chat and you don't want to talk about it anymore, that's totally fine as well. Um, you know, your friends will know when to let you speak and when you're done speaking. But just to have someone there listen, is amazing.
So I do have like a bit of a diary that is, um, kind of a bit of a feelings diary in a way. I just, I used to do it every day. Um, but then I changed it because, um, I don't know why I felt like I was just repeating myself all the time. So I would change it to kind of do updates every so often. And that kind of helped me out cause I would write down everything that I had done, almost everything I had done and just really deconstructed and kind of talk about how I felt about it. And it got me to kind of relive those moments and really be appreciative that it happened. I feel like I'm usually always on my laptop cause I'm, you know, studying or watching Netflix or YouTube or something like that. So to get a break from that and really to be able to write down my feelings, like physically write it down, I think that kind of provides a bit more of a, of a significant kind of emotional response than just, you know, typing away at a laptop or whatever.
So when I do go out and I am in that mindset, like, um, I do really try and find things to be appreciative of, you know, whatever that might be, whether it's just seeing a friend, you know, for 15 minutes in a day or something like that. Or even if I'm just driving along and it's a really good day and you know, one of my favorite songs comes on or something like that. It's, yeah, it's just very small things and it doesn't seem like it'll do a lot, but it does, it just changes your mood for sure.
You've got to put things aside, I'm out of your life to give to that person. Um, and it's not like that's not a burden or anything like that. Um, you can make positive out of it like you can. Um, we found that we were always going to the beach and um, one thing I like, we have in common with Ollie is, that'd we like going to waterfalls and bush walks. So we ended up going on a lot of like adventures, camping trips and that kind of thing. Um, so you really just got to jump into whatever makes, not just them happy but like what you can do together. Cause I guess one thing that's going to help them moving forward is group interactions, not just like being careful, but they've got to feel like a part of something
There was stuff that makes me the happiest is kind of going out adventuring, taking photos of landscapes and nature bladed stuff. Yeah. Like my mum was the main influence cause she kinda had shown me some of her photos and um, I, I liked them. I thought that they were good and I thought, um, you know, I could, you know, being, you know, the competitive person that I can be, I'm like, Oh, I can do better. So, um, I kind of, mum let me borrow a camera for a bit and I'm just kind of went around and I just really enjoyed it. It gives me an opportunity to really appreciate um, you know, everything that kind of constituted nature and from learning about, you know, biology and ecosystems in high school and stuff, it, it really gives me a chance to really like really comprehend what's going on rather than, you know, just seeing, you know, leaves and trees and animals. You really kind of understands like the symbiotic relationship between everything that's there. And then, I mean that's just a small part on top of that. It's going out and it just being dead quiet, you just hear the animals rustling around or the birds in the trees, you know, seeing the colors of all the leaves and the flowers, it's out there and then the smells as well. It's just such a, I guess like sensory fulfilling kind of experience. And I don't think people do that enough. I think it's very important to, to do that and kind of go out and be out.
Yeah. I guess, I guess the most important thing is to, find the platform to share in a best suits you, whether it's a online forum, with a mate, with family. Just because your friend got better from opening up to their mates or family you know, It doesn't mean it's gonna work for you. Mmm. Start hunting around, find the thing that best works for you, it might be in a book. Um, everyone is different. Um, just got to find what works for you I guess
I'd kind of been, you know, reading about like I guess mental health and the importance of diet, you know, in relation to that, but also just all around health. And I kind of started looking into jobs and the role of being a dietician really appealed to me, you know, far more than being a nurse. Um, so I thought that it'd be a good idea to go back to uni and, and do it because I feel like if, cause I was reading books, I was reading studies about it and I felt like if it was something that, you know, is taking up a significant portion of my, you know, personal time when I'm not at uni, I feel like it's something I should make a career out of. And that was kind of like a split decision and I just said, yeah, well I'm going to go back to uni now. So yeah,
never feel embarrassed about how you feeling because at the end of the day, everyone goes through the same thing at some point in their life. So there's no point of pushing everything down and just making it worse for yourself. Just try and pick yourself up and talk to someone. Don't feel embarrassed at all because yeah, everybody's there to help. You'll be amazed at like how many people out there just right next to you wanting to help you, but you're just too scared to say I'm, I need help. So just speaking out is the most powerful thing I think people can do and need to like talk about. Just speaking out.
A couple of things that have come up in the past few months that have kind of made me feel that way, but at least I can understand how I feel. And I know that sometimes when they come, I can't really necessarily change my mind. I can't force myself. I can't control my feelings. But I know that when I feel, when I feel depressed or anxious, I know that I, there's certain things that I can do that's gonna make me realize that I should be more appreciative. I'll just get motivation to kind of get up and do something. So I start doing something and then it changes my mood entirely. It's easier said than done. It does take a while to like get that and be able to like shoo the feelings off. But once you get to that place, it's a lot easier to be able to control your mental, not, not control, but be able to work with your mental health a bit more and improve it.
I used to beg mum to let me catch the bus just to sit with Ollie. I literally used to go around and tell people that I had no money for the bus. Even their mum said she'd pick me up. So he just like, I can't help but just smile from ear to ear, talking about it. Cause he honestly just made every day with him. Just unreal.
As soon as that hope comes back, it changes everything. You know, you kind of realize like you can do anything and everything if you want to. Um, I mean you can if you really want to, if you enjoy it, you can be at uni for, you know, five years and then get a job out of that. Or you can go, you know, travel, you know, for a year and then come back and then worry about things when you get back. Then it just changes because the way you look at things becomes more of, um, instead of like an obstacle, it becomes like a momentum kind of thing. So yeah,
I guess what I've learned from the whole experience is the value in your friends, um, mental health until I think it hits home. Somebody or someone near you or with yourself, you just have, you just can't comprehend what exactly it is. You have , you think you have an idea of what, what it is to be depressed or anxious. But until it, until you see someone, you know, and uh, change their behavior and you can identify their behaviour and you know it's not an act. It's not nothing. It's something that is out of their control, until that happens, I think, um, you have no idea what mental health is. It's been a real eye openner for me and a lot of our friends. I think, um, you know, understanding and I'm certainly more sympathetic to people, uh, with mental health issues. And I'm also quicker, I think to identify symptoms in other people because of what he went through.
You know, it's, I think a lot of people assume that, you know, when something is serious as death, as ending your life. Um, it's should take a serious, a serious kind of action to, you know, get you off that pathway. But it's not really. It's just, you know, even though my friends were always supporting me, you know, before that time as well, it's just one of those things where, you know, people, you know, take, you know, a couple of hours out of their day or night to come and just make sure that you're okay and really be there for you. That was a massive thing for me. Even though it's something as small as you know, just driving 15 minutes to someone's house, it's, it's massive and you don't know that the effect that it can have, but but you just need to be there. Just physically be there for someone and that's the most important thing. Just do it cause you never really know what the result of it's going to be.
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