Dark days: Council CEO’s raw insight into 'deep depression'
EIGHTEEN years ago, Ken Diehm was a dead man walking.
Going through a divorce and locked in a custody battle for his children, he'd slipped into a "deep, deep depression" and was trying to hold it together in working hours despite prescription medication providing little relief.
It all came to a head however when, "out of the blue", at a conference in front of 300 business people, he began sobbing out loud, rushed out of the room and jumped into his car.
This moment and what happened next is detailed in one of a series of frank interviews with high-profile members of the community who bravely open up about the times in life their mental health was truly tested.
Produced by Fraser Coast Mates to coincide with World Suicide Prevention Day, the social media campaign aims to raise awareness in a region which has one of the highest suicide rates in the country and where statistics show the majority of these casualties do not seek professional help.
Men also make up approximately 75 per cent of the region's suicide toll.
In the first video, to be released on Thursday, the now Fraser Coast Regional Council CEO recalls driving away from the life-changing business meeting and, between sobs, calling his friend and chairman of the board at the company he worked for at the time.
The voice on the other end of the phone was able to convince Mr Diehm to pull over and organised for him to see a psychologist.
"It was probably the best thing I ever did" he admitted.
"I can remember sitting at home and thinking about how I might kill myself.
"I was the sort of guy who believed that if you are having a problem, you don't talk about it, you be a man, toughen up and you'll get through it and it just wasn't working for me.
"Going to get professional help was absolutely incredible."
While the change wasn't overnight, Mr Diehm describes being able to deal the problems he was having as the weeks went on.
Suddenly, his struggles didn't seem insurmountable, his outlook had changed and he'd learnt to meditate to get through the tougher times.
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He thanked his mate and former boss for taking the call and having the conversation that led to him getting lifesaving support.
"It definitely saved my life and it means now I can enjoy my three children and my four grandchildren that I've had since, and I am really grateful I was able to reach out to a mate and that somebody really cared," he said.
"When you are in that state of mind people say 'just snap out of it'.
"If you could snap out of it, you would.
"You don't want to be in that state of mind, it's uncontrollable and it just drags you down into this really dark place and you get really dark thoughts.
"I think the best thing people can do is talk to a mate or even better, go and see a professional because these guys are trained in counselling techniques to deal with depression and it works.
"I am living testimony to the fact that it works."
Fraser Coast Mates aims to start conversations about mental health issues, bridge the gap between support services and ultimately make progress for suicide prevention.
The group's president, Darren Bosley, encouraged everyone to be honest about their feelings, share them with at least one person in their life and not carry the burden alone.
"Ken's bravery in sharing his story publicly is an example for us all," Mr Bosley said
"His willingness to be part of the campaign and encouragement to seek help is significant leadership in my eyes that asks our community to speak up.
"We are very fortunate to have a leader of our region that prioritises mental health in our community."
For further information about Fraser Coast Mates, visit www.frasercoastmates.com.au
If you need help, call Lifeline, available 24 hours a day, on 13 11 14.