Mornington resident David Corduff kept a secret from his close friends for many years. At his 60th surprise birthday party – an intimate lunch with 30 of his nearest and dearest – David’s daughter revealed in her speech that her dad had been quietly living with anxiety and depression. “If I could have fallen through a hole in the ground, I would have,” says David. Days later, reflecting on what his daughter had done, David thought, “Well, it’s out there now”, and felt a sense of relief.
Fast forward 10 years and David is a passionate advocate for reducing the stigma of mental illness in the community, both in families and workplaces. He gets his message out to community groups, sporting clubs, businesses and prisons through his work as a public speaker with mental health and well-being support organisation Beyond Blue. Because David knows first hand how hard it can be to recognise the signs of anxiety and depression and to ask for help, he shares his story openly in a bid to help others.
His first experience of anxiety and depression happened in his mid-30s. David was married with three young children, the sole breadwinner, had a sizeable mortgage, and without warning he received a retrenchment notice from his corporate employer. The job loss triggered a deep depression that at first David struggled to find his way out of. “I’d lost my confidence, I wasn’t eating or sleeping, I’d lost interest in things I usually enjoyed,” he says. When David secured a new job, he struggled to complete basic tasks he’d done in the past. “Nothing made sense. It was very frightening.”
His wife, Liz, noticed David wasn’t himself and booked him in to see his family doctor. It was a real shock when his doctor diagnosed him with depression, but he says: “At least we had an answer and could go from there.” It took a few different doctors but eventually David found a psychiatrist he felt comfortable with. Finding the right doctor can take time, and David urges people to keep trying until they find the right one and the right medication when required.
When David was 55, a stay in hospital for unexpected major heart surgery gave him time and space to reflect on his life. “It was a turning point for me. I realised I’d been given a second chance because I’d had times where I didn’t want to be here. I’d always been looking for a way to cure my depression and I realised I had to be realistic and accept my depression and manage it. This changed my thinking, and I really wanted to be here.”
The proud grandfather of seven says his family’s unwavering support continues to lift him. And his community work has become an important part of looking after himself, feeling he gets back as much as he gives.
Another volunteer role he’s undertaken is vice-president of Peninsula Voice. Founded in 2014, Peninsula Voice is a not-for-profit community organisation that hosts public events and forums to engage the community and have conversations about tough topics. The aim is to raise awareness and connect people. The team of volunteers have been highly successful in bringing people together, attracting up to 500 people at forums covering a range of topics including family violence, drug addiction, asylum seekers, mental health, and gambling – not exactly light conversation, but again David sees tremendous benefits in breaking down barriers and stigmas that prevent people from seeking help.
If there’s one thing David wants people to know, it’s that there’s always hope even when it doesn’t feel that way. “If you’re not feeling great and don’t know where to start, jump on the Beyond Blue website. There’s plenty of resources there and you can always talk to someone on the helpline. Or make a time with your GP. Telling one person makes all the difference. Don’t suffer in silence.”
You can contact Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 or at www.beyondblue.org.au; for more information about Peninsula Voice, phone 0407 887 864 or go to www.peninsulavoice.org.au
David will join Jetty Road Brewery co-founder Grant Rogers as the guest speakers at the next MP Business Social Business Talks event on Wednesday, August 18, from 6-9pm at Jetty Road Brewery, 12-14 Brasser Ave, Dromana. Bookings are essential at www.ticketebo.com.au/mpbusinesssocial