Since Winston Churchill used the phrase Black Dog to describe the bouts of sadness he experienced for much of his life, it has become the shorthand for the crippling disease we call depression.
Depression is a dog that can bite at anybody’s heels. These thoughts are to bring that hidden beast of a disease into the open.
Australian rural communities are losing too many people to this preventable sickness, and our beautiful district is never immune. Capable people are being laid low, or lost forever.
Every day a person loses to depression is a loss to our whole community.
Since the economics of the wine industry have become depressed, all of us who work in it can feel alone and marginalised through the intense stress it brings. We are all under enormous pressure which can make our problems seem insurmountable.
Ordinarily happy folks suddenly become easy targets for the Black Dog.
Unfortunately I know this feeling, as do many of my friends and colleagues. There have been times in our lives where things have seemed too hard and the future looks too narrow. The feeling is like a crushing weight on your chest.
We must be very careful to look after each other, learn to watch out for symptoms, and stick together.
It's important to know that depression is a common illness which affects roughly 1 in every 5 people. Good treatments are available through your family doctor and, with treatment, sufferers should fully recover.
Beyond Blue is a good start for specific information. Its experts provide information especially tuned for people in rural and remote communities.
It's not always easy to help someone who may be experiencing depression. It can be hard to know what to say or do.
When you feel concern for a friend you think may be depressed, encourage them gently to talk about how they feel. Listen patiently: sometimes, when somebody needs to talk, they might not seek advice, but just feel like talking it through. Sometimes they may be vague about their concerns.
Gentle open-ended questions like "So tell me about...?", open the door for an answer bigger than 'yes' or 'no'. This is often a good way to start a conversation. If conversation becomes difficult or your friend gets angry, stay calm, be firm, fair and consistent and don't lose control.
Simply spending time with a depressed friend lets them know someone cares and understands them. Encourage them to seek professional help from their family doctor or at least get online and look at information themselves.
We need to watch out for the Black Dog now more than ever. Our tribe needs to stick together. As an industry, a community, and as individuals, we need to 'walk the walk.' Actions speak louder than words. So please look after your mates. Make a call. Go visit.