Duncan started experiencing depression in his early thirties. After surviving an attempt to take his own life, Duncan relied heavily on the support of his children. His daughter Breanna became his primary carer.
Duncan's shame and fear of what others might think prevented him from getting the help he needed when he most needed it. However, once he reached out for help and got suitable support, his life started to improve.
Breanna shines a light on the common and challenging experience that children of parents with mental illness face and what it means to be a young carer.
If you or someone you know needs support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 224 636. In an emergency, call 000.
BREANNA: It was really hard to hear as his kids. I remember feeling like why aren't we enough for you to want to live for. I understand now that it's so much more complex than that.
DUNCAN: In my early thirties I started to experience black, depressive moods and disturbed sleep and was drinking too much and that was as a result of being in a high pressure job in a recession and I had a significant injury that stopped me chasing my passion of running and I couldn't compete.
BREANNA: I became aware that I was a carer probably only three or four years ago. Growing up it was just normal for us. It wasn't until I was in my early twenties that I kind of I guess really had to step up because dad was hospitalised.
DUNCAN: I exhibited suicidal behaviour. It was like a roller coaster. My moods were up, they were down, really long black periods. Self-doubt, self-hate, self-loathing, extremely erratic behaviour and it would have been extremely hard for anybody to live with and it was hard to live with myself as well. We talk about stigma and mental health, it was less about what other people thought of me, it was more what I thought of myself and I was stigmatising myself because I was this successful intelligent person who was quite a good athlete and I couldn't control my behaviour.
BREANNA: We kind of had a chat and I think dad ended up agreeing to go to the GP.
DUNCAN: That was the start of actually saying I'm not doing too well and that was a big part of getting better was actually I think admitting it to myself as much as anything else. I got myself some good professional support. I found a fantastic psychologist who helped me unpack a lot of the things that were going on in my head and things that had happened in the past that I'd never spoken about. And once I started addressing those things I started to improve and continue to do so.
BREANNA: I've never really spoken about my dad having more complex mental illness because I've always been so afraid of them being afraid of him and judging him because I know that a lot of people have this idea that people with the diagnosis of bipolar or schizophrenia and things like that are dangerous and they're scary because they're unpredictable. It's the way people use language when you're growing up, when you're just with regular people that you actually become afraid to share and just talk about it openly.
DUNCAN: I was disconnected from the world, from my family, from my friends but most of all I was disconnected from myself. And I had to find some meaning in my life. Through doing that I got some self-respect back.