LIFE'S GOOD: Dr Oliver Liyou speaks about his experience with mental health and suicide at the Black Tie Ball for mental health at the Grafton District Services Club on Saturday night.
LIFE'S GOOD: Dr Oliver Liyou speaks about his experience with mental health and suicide at the Black Tie Ball for mental health at the Grafton District Services Club on Saturday night. Caitlan Charles

Emerging from the shadow of depression

AS A COMMUNITY, we've recognised we have a problem with mental health, but it hasn't always been that way.

For some people, like Dr Oliver Liyou who shared his experience at the Black Tie Ball, returning to society following a suicide attempt doesn't always end well. Or for Taleah Carroll, who was bullied at school following her attempt.

Now, the changing stigma around mental health and suicide means we are sharing our stories. The Black Tie Ball gave a few members of our community the chance to share their stories in a way that may not have seemed possible in years past.

"Everyone has a story, right? A story about how mental health problems have affected them or their families," Dr Liyou said.

"No one is immune to the potential disaster associated with mental health and neither was I. The question is not whether the black dog (of depression) comes visiting you, but how you choose to deal with it when it comes sniffing around your household.

"Sometimes it wanders off, sometimes it decides to stay a while. Since before puberty I've experience a strange comfort that if life got too difficult or too serious, suicide was an option.

"It was a very comforting and familiar thought pattern in my mind, popping up on a regular basis between the ages of 10 and 33. But it was my secret, I never did anything about getting rid of it as I knew I would never act on it for I knew how devastating it would be to my family and friends."

But when he was 33 years old, married with three boys under five and a booming business, Dr Liyou found it difficult to keep up with the demands of being a husband, father, vet and businessman.

"Working 80 to 100 hours a week, being pulled in many directions, stress just ate away at my soul," he said.

"My marriage began to fall apart, and I could not keep up with the rapid growth and cash flow demands on my young business.

"When I think back to the two days leading up to the suicide attempt, I vividly remember isolating myself from others, thinking in a tunnel vision sort of way."

Dr Liyou said during those two days, he pulled back from others, isolated himself and waited until everyone left home.

He described a 'series of modern miracles' that helped him survive his suicide attempt.

After a text to his then wife, who was too far away to help, she called his brother, who came to his house in minutes.

"I was unconscious on my back and barely breathing, he'd recently completed a first-aid course so he was familiar with CPR and he did this while phoning the ambulance until they arrived and took over.

"I owe my life to my ex-wife and my brother. The scars left in my family's mind who witnessed these scenes will be with them forever, and I'm greatly sorry for this."

Dr Liyou lay in a coma for five days on life support, with his family advised to prepare for the worst.

But it was by some miracle, as he describes it, that he came out of the coma and made a full recovery.

"When I woke, I was informed of the events of the last week and I fully realised the magnitude of the mistake I'd made," he said.

"I finally came to the realisation that I needed to get myself sorted out properly, once and for all."

This is when Dr Liyou found psychologist Dr George Blair West, also a speaker at The Black Tie Ball, who helped him rebuild his life, marriage, reputation and business.

"Words cannot describe how grateful I am for not dying on that day in 2005, and the incredible family friends, clients and professionals who have supported me in my recovery," he said.

"Make no mistake, I still have good days and bad days, but by and large, life is good."

If this story has raised any issues, or you or someone you love is in crisis or needs support right now, help is available. Please call:

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636



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