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What could only feel like sleepwalking through his own life due to sleep deprivation and depression, Anthony Hart wasn’t himself the day he almost died.
After a number of failed calls to his GP one November afternoon, Mr Hart put on his board shorts and went to the roof of his Sydney hotel for a swim to put his mind back on track.
But after getting out of the elevator he never got in the pool. At that moment he attempted to take his own life, but a stroke of luck instead saved him and gave him a second chance.
Since that fateful day, he’s fiercely fought to help others silently suffering like he was.
Man’s huge life decision sparks mental health battle
All it took was a photo that inspired Mr Hart to upend his life in the UK and move back to Adelaide with his fiancé.
He was just 28 years old and was working a successful job, jetting off to countries around Europe every other weekend.
But one evening after returning home from work on a dreary winter’s afternoon, Mr Hart opened a photo emailed by his mate of his friends having a barbecue on a sunny 35-degree day in Glenelg, South Australia.
He could almost smell the sausages and beer.
“There I was living in the UK and enjoying my career, but I missed home and when I saw that image something snapped,” he told Yahoo News Australia as part of the What’s Up? mental health series.
“I went home and I said to my fiancée, ‘That’s it, let’s pack up our bags and go back to Adelaide’.”
After living the dream in the UK, it wasn’t until he returned to Adelaide that he began to struggle.
“It was March 2003 when we returned to Adelaide, and it wasn’t as easy as what I thought. The first few months were OK mentally but I was losing my identity and comparing my life to the one I left back in the UK,” he said.
“It wasn’t stacking up career wise, it was a blast of a job overseas.
“Employment was harder in Australia and everything was new in Europe, and there was plenty of money to go to Germany or France for a weekend.
“Coming back to Adelaide was like a big thud.”
How young man masked his depression
Mr Hart didn’t want to admit he was on a downward slide.
He began to mask how unhappy he was by putting on fake smiles, while in reality he was struggling to sleep and started to self-medicate with alcohol.
“No one could see past the disguise,” he said.
Due to his fatigue, Mr Hart said his decision-making skills were affected and by August 2003 he was suffering in silence, too ashamed to say he needed help.
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After his mum recognised something was wrong, Mr Hart went to his GP. He wrote down some symptoms of his mental health issue but remembered he wanted to “keep some self-respect”.
He was prescribed an anti-depressant that day by the doctor, but it did not react well with Mr Hart’s body and he continued to spiral.
About two weeks later things appeared to be turning around for Mr Hart.
He landed a new job that compared to what he did in the UK and was sent to Sydney for training.
It was a trip however he would never return from the same.
Stroke of luck saves man from death
When Mr Hart was in Sydney for his training in November 2003, he was so unwell he was sent back to the hotel.
As he began to spiral out of control, he picked up the phone and attempted to call the GP in Adelaide.
However the doctor was busy and after failing to get through numerous times, he gave up. Not just on the call, but on life completely.
As he put on his board shorts to go for a swim to clear his head, he didn’t know that he would instead try to take his life.
“I don’t remember those last six hours, I was so sleep deprived I couldn’t walk in a straight line,” he said.
“All I know is those last three or four days I wanted the pain to go away.”
Miraculously, Mr Hart’s attempt to take his own life was foiled, and despite suffering some injuries he still lives with today, he took it as a second chance and began helping others concealing their own mental health battles.
Man’s stark realisation after suicide attempt
As Mr Hart recovered in hospital, he became aware of just how many people were struggling with mental health issues and he developed the Lifeback Tracker, an early intervention tool focusing on four steps to a better mind.
“Everyone in your network is just blown away that it happened and why I didn’t talk about it,” he said.
“What started to happen was friend after friend would come and see me at the rehab clinic and every fourth friend would confidentially tell me they were going through a similar thing to what I was going through.
“Whether it be financial, relationships, pain management – there was something triggering depression and anxiety.
“In the first years of rehab it was a distraction for me and I wasn’t afraid of anybody knowing what happened to me.”
Mr Hart now manages his mental health by following his four steps – reducing alcohol intake, exercising, sleeping and talking.
He also launched his business, Invigor Wellbeing, to work with businesses and communities to provide strategies and tips to ensure people’s health and happiness.
“Life is fantastic and to think so many good things have come out of what happened to me,” he said.
Lifeline head of crisis services Rachel Bowes told Yahoo News Australia people struggling with a mental health issue should tell somebody.
“Particularly if you’re having thoughts about taking your life, don’t wait two weeks,” she said.
“If you’re thinking about suicide, give a service like Lifeline a call where we can do an assessment.
“Be honest about what you’re thinking, it’s not unusual, and really important to talk about [your thoughts].”
Ms Bowes encouraged those struggling to identify somebody they trusted in their life to have the crucial conversation with.
“One of the biggest myths people with depression believe is people don’t care about them, or their problems aren’t big or important,” she said.
“Trust those people you love and care about, and know they care about you.”
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