Dave Hughes opens up about mental health
ON FACE value, Dave Hughes is all laughs.
As the co-host of 2DAY FM's Drive radio show Hughesy & Kate, as well as currently touring for his national comedy show Dave Hughes Live, the father-of-three is one of Australia's favourite comedians.
But in 2015, Hughesy revealed his journey to success in the world of entertainment came from humble beginnings and he wasn't always as self-assured as he appears to be now.
After dropping out of university and failing subject after subject of his business degree, Hughesy became unemployed and slipped in to a life of alcohol and regular marijuana use.
"I was feeling depressed as a young man," he told news.com.au.
"I was drinking too much, and when I'd drink I would get drunk. As a teenager and in my early 20s I was struggling with my own ego … that whole struggle to feel like you're achieving things.
"Young men and young people can take life too seriously and I think drinking certainly didn't help that … as well as smoking marijuana."
Hughesy, now 47, said not really knowing what he wanted to do in his life led to the drug use and battle with mental health during his formative years.
"I was doing a business degree … I'd dropped out of an IT degree," he said.
"I was trying to satisfy my own expectations of being a winner but not really having my heart in any of it.
"I remember I dropped out of uni after failing every subject in the second semester of the second year of my business degree, and I suppose I spent some time unemployed.
"That, combined with smoking a lot of marijuana and drinking heavily, lead me to feeling really poorly … really feeling down more than anything … just a feeling of being really low.
"Drinking and marijuana was making me feel even more lost I suppose."
Hughesy first opened up about his struggle with mental health in 2015 when appearing as a guest on ABC's Q&A in 2015.
During the recording, he spoke candidly about his battle, admitting that he thought he suffered from schizophrenia at one point in his early 20s.
"When you hit something hard and you're coming off it, I think that's when you can really get freaked out," he said of his terrifying dreams after quitting alcohol and marijuana.
"It was coming off and not trying to do that stuff where you'd freak out … your thoughts go all over the place.
"I remember thinking I wasn't in control of my thoughts."
Hughesy decided to turn to his mum - a practising nurse - because "there was very little talk between young men" when it came to mental health.
"(In the 1990s) it was unheard of I suppose," he said.
"There were no sporting heroes who put their hand up that they were struggling mentally. "My mum was the best one for me to speak to (because) it wasn't something you'd chat about with your friends."
Hughesy said while he didn't attempt self harm, there were times where he'd put himself in to positions where he didn't care about the outcome.
"There were moments where you might drive erratically without care," he said. "Not many times, but a few times where you don't mind what happens.
"I think many young men go through times where they end up in cars … doing things that are really dangerous but don't care of the result and often that can end tragically for any young man.
"Thankfully I survived."
This month the government announced an inquiry in to mental health funding after shock statistics showed a 9 per cent increase in suicides between 2016 and 2017.
It's a particularly worryingly statistic for men, who are three times more likely than women to take their own life. On average, nine Australians commit suicide each day and six of these will be men.
Organisations like Gotcha4Life are now encouraging men to identify that one person they can talk to when something happens in their lives.
"You could be going along and everything is absolutely fine, then you get hit by something out of the blue that can totally shake you to your foundations," Gotcha4Life co-founder Gareth Pike told news.com.au.
"Everybody gets struck somehow, whether it's losing your parents, your job, your partner or something happens with your kids. If you've got that person, they can bounce you back into a more positive state," he said.
Men are much less likely to ask for help when having suicidal thoughts and Hughesy acknowledged that it's hard to have that initial conversation.
"For anyone, it can be embarrassing to admit you're struggling mentally," Hughesy said.
"I went downhill over a year … So it was a year of struggling. But I came good pretty quickly after seeing a health professional with my mum. I stopped smoking marijuana and stopped drinking and haven't had a drink since those days."
Hughesy said there is a stigma around seeking help for mental illness, that he hopes will change with more and more men speaking out about their experiences.
"Anyone who talks about it is inspiring for the whole … and certainly encourages people to be honest about their struggles," he said.
"Many people go through the same things. To keep hold of your mental health is like keeping hold of your physical health. It should be maintained.
"Men … they don't express their feelings as much as women I suppose. Men just don't do it enough."
If you or someone you know needs support with their mental health, please contact one of these support organisations:
• Lifeline 24/7: 13 11 14 or www.lifeline.org.au
• Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467 or www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au
• MensLine Australia: 1300 78 99 78 or www.mensline.org.au