Raising awareness about seeking help | Video

VOICE: Beyondblue ambassador John Sudholz is encouraging people in rural areas to seek support when they need it.
VOICE: Beyondblue ambassador John Sudholz is encouraging people in rural areas to seek support when they need it.

JOHN Sudholz made his debut playing for South Melbourne in 1966 and was the club’s leading goalkicker for four consecutive seasons.

After making the finals in 1970, John made the decision to return to his family’s farm in Rupanyup in 1971.

While working as a farmer, John continued to play for Rupanyup for three seasons before retiring from the game. Since then he has coached junior football teams and served on various committees.

John started to “feel the pinch” in the early 1980s – particularly during the drought of 1982.

“I wasn’t sleeping, I felt uptight, I was crabby with my children and my wife. I felt resentful towards the community who were always asking me to do things and I couldn’t say no,” he said. 

“I would get all uptight about minor issues, making it feel like they were major issues when they weren’t.

“My personality had changed from being a happy-go-lucky guy to someone who was very aggressive towards everyone.” 

In 1988, John was hospitalised as he felt completely broken down and had no confidence.

It was a long journey home after treatment.

But it wasn't long before one of the locals wandered up to welcome him home. It was a simple gesture which made all the difference.

“I'm sitting there in the passenger seat, beside the supermarket actually, and … he walked up to me and he just said, ‘Good day, Jumbo. It's good to see you back in town’. I've never forgotten that. Like, he probably has, but I haven't. And it was probably something that's just stuck in my mind after all those years,” he said. 

Nowadays, farming is still John’s income stream, but more in an advisory role with the modern methods that the younger generation employ in the 21st century.

Sport is still a major social activity in small rural communities, even though the population is declining.

John has continued his involvement in sports although has slowed pace a little and now regularly participates in club bowls and golf croquet.

“I’ve been a regular guest speaker at Probus, Lions, Rotary and church meetings. The grandchildren and outback travel take up a lot of my time,” he said. 

As a beyondblue ambassador, John speaks of his experiences of depression, its impact on his life, family, farming and life today – and the great changes he’s seen in rural farming communities with men now talking more openly about depression and seeking help.

He encourages other farmers to get serious about looking after themselves.

“Groups like beyondblue and Lifeline have made help far more accessible for rural people and the local health services have been very good in distributing information at local farming field days, with advice on mental health issues,” he said. 

“Women are much better at communicating – they will sit and have a cup of coffee and talk about fair dinkum issues where blokes will go to the pub and not talk about what is worrying them.

“Everyone is this world has two or three mates who are true mates and will do anything for them. They will sit and talk and listen to your point of view.

“When you are feeling the pinch, you need to go and talk to these mates.

“It’s vital that we all get serious about looking after ourselves both mentally and physically.

“These days I visit my doctor for a health check-up about every three months. So I'll go and have a check-up, go to my GP in the next three weeks or a month and just get things checked out.”

  • If you, or someone you know, needs help phone Lifeline on 13 11 14 or phone beyondblue on 1300 22 46 36.

Campaign to support rural areas

Animal health company Zoetis has committed to raise another $100,000 through its partnership with beyondblue.

Zoetis, working with rural areas through interactions with the country’s farmers, agricultural stores, veterinarians and their families, has helped to raise $200,000 in the past two years by donating $5 from each sale of the livestock, pig and poultry vaccines and drenches.

The money raised goes directly to the beyondblue support service, providing advice and support for people 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Their latest campaign runs between August 1 and October 31.

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