Dancing With The Dog

Photo on 2018-01-28 at 19.40.jpg

When I was in Year Ten at Barrenjoey High School, we were put in a boy’s only PE class to talk about all the weird things teenage boys go through, and what we should expect for the future. During this class our teacher told us that, statistically speaking, at least one person in that class will have suicided by the time we were all twenty-one. Being pubescent deviants we all thought we were invincible, and that nothing as seemingly stupid and unknown as suicide could ever affect any of us.

Seven years later, and two of the boys who sat in that very class with me are no longer with us, after having taken their own lives.

Although there are more and more services and initiatives targeted at helping those suffering from depression and other mental health issues, it still remains taboo, and often-uneasy, to bring up this topic in public – especially among young men. It seems the only time boys really open up and tell their mates how they’re feeling is after the help of a lot of beers and stimulants. The conversation is talked about in great depth, then forgotten amongst the morning after’s hangover: the boys too shy, or too scared, to bring it up again in a regular (sober) conversation.

We are lucky enough to live in one of the most beautiful and affluent parts of the world, but with this privilege, comes an enormous amount of pressure. From our early teens we are expected to go above and beyond in all aspects of our life: you have to be getting good marks at school to make sure you get a good job, you have to be playing a variety of sports and be good at them. And these are just our parents’ expectations – the social requirements we feel we need to fill, such as having a girlfriend, having a lot of mates, and being seen at the right parties on the weekend, are exhausting. All of these expectations and requirements are, of course, increased ten fold thanks to the social media machine.

Everyone has bad days, bad weeks, bad years. Whether it be stuck in a shitty job, ex-lovers, partying too much, not partying enough, feeling unaccomplished, feeling ugly, feeling skinny, feeling fat, or the worst of all, feeling shitty and not knowing why. The worst thing to do is bottle all these emotions up, to put on a tough face for the outside world. Talking to your mates and your family is one of the simplest ways to begin addressing your problems; it opens up a healthy conversation and might make you realise that you’re not the only one dancing with the black dog.


Written by Oscar Long

Edited by Samantha Callender & Paris Jeffcoat

Have a story to tell? One Eighty is all about humanising mental health, opening up the conversation and creating a community of story tellers. If you have a story that could help someone else, we'd love to hear from you. Let's get talking and ditch the stigma!

Email: sam@oneeighty.org.au expressing your interest.

Any information on this blog is not a substitute for professional advice. It is written from personal experience and research only. If you are in crisis, go to your nearest emergency room, call lifeline on 13 11 14 or dial 000.

Leanne Westlake