If you’re anyone who’s anyone with Facebook or a smart-phone, you’ve likely read Dan Price’s story which went absolutely viral last month. In an interview with one of our intern psychologist’s Martha, Dan shares how repressing his emotions really led him to his most ‘rock-bottom’ state where he wanted it all to end and shocked himself out of it when he found himself at the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
When asked what he felt really led to this breaking point, Dan really points to a combination of factors including the overbearing standards society places on men to bottle up their feelings. Heck, mental illness does not discriminate, men, women, the young and old are susceptible and yes – even those that appear to “have it all” may be struggling the most. Beyond the pressures of society to “keep it together”, he grappled with self-imposed pressures and a shitload of self-loathing. Dan was completely closed off and in his own bubble, staying within in his own head and not able to share what he was going through. His strategy for coping? Not talking. Literally sitting in silence until these incredibly tough feelings would pass. Eventually though, this strategy did not succeed, culminating in him feeling numb to the world and shutting off completely from his internal voice.
Although he was stuck in the pits of depression and anxiety, Dan didn’t seek help and kept his struggles under the radar, as he became better and better at putting on a mask and faking it. “People close to me knew I was struggling. But the things was, you become really good at faking it. Really convincing.” And it was just that – on the surface, Dan looked like he had it all – the job, relationship, friends and a booming social life. Even though his friends and family who knew he was struggling, he would disclose just enough to get people off his back, to give him space so he could be alone again. He harnessed an “I’ll just push through it” mentality, telling himself to just get through – to the weekend, to Christmas, to the next important date. However, the stressors kept building up and the relief never came and then BOOM just like that – his situation forced him to open up, bit by bit to family first and eventually close friends.
After the incident, it still took a lot of time to really open up and be vulnerable with friends and family. But that was his biggest breakthrough. Readers let it be known: Opening up to others is a constant inside job! What’s the easiest way to open up? Just answer NO to the age-old question “Are you ok?” and own it. Daniel reports that now when he does open up honestly about how he is feeling with others, he feels so much better and well supported by his network. This prompted sharing his story online. “What I really wanted to do is to raise mental health awareness. My aim was for others in a similar situation to connect to my story and see where they might be on my timeline, and realise they do have the power to turn it around”. When we as a society become better at having conversations about mental illness, and just be honest about what we are going through, it will seriously change lives.
Beyond this, being open about how you are feeling inspires real connection with others. His story is a case example of how the powerful medium of social media can be used – inspiring global awareness and real connection. Hundreds of people have reached out, old friends, friends of friends in a similar boat, even people he has never met before from pockets all over the globe. For a platform that can otherwise be quite toxic for people struggling with depression and anxiety, the overwhelming positive feedback and support has been an incredible journey for him.
Aside from working on being open with his family, partner and close friends, Dan says therapy has been extremely important in keeping his shit together and as well as regularly checking in with himself daily. Gratitude and journaling, in addition to being real with himself and checking in with what he’s feeling, has really helped him cope and continue to put his best self out there. The good days will come, and the tough days inevitably will too, but it’s OK, as this too will pass. Dan’s advice to anyone in a similar position: “Simply be kind to yourself”.
As communication and education around mental health and what people are going through improves i.e. gets more real and gets more out there, we hope people will start to recognize the signs sooner and to see the barriers to seeking help drop off. We certainly agree that Dan can tick off his goal to raise mental health awareness by sharing his incredibly story. This courageous soul epitomizes the phrase “it ain’t weak to speak” and we absolutely love how he continues on working to break down these barriers by inspiring communication and connection with others. A big thank you muchly for meeting with us and allowing us to share your story – keep on being your amazing self and we hope to see you soon!