A healthy camp­fire con­ver­sa­tion

In any one year about one mil­lion Aus­tralians suf­fer from de­pres­sion. The hunt­ing com­mu­nity, like any co­hort, isn’t im­mune but as Brian Boyle writes from per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence, our shared pas­sion and time spent around a camp­fire means we have a reg­u­lar oppo


I was sit­ting on a deck at about 4 pm sip­ping on a nice Scotch look­ing across Lake Tekapo in New Zealand. I had just had a great week hunt­ing tahr near Mount Cook with my son-in-law and nephew when I got the phone call that would change my life. I re­ceived the news that the fae­cal mat­ter was re­ally about to hit the fan in my work back in Aus­tralia. I would have to cut my planned three-week hol­i­day off two weeks early and re­turn to deal with is­sues. This came on top of a crazy but ex­cit­ing year at work, which had been pre­ceded by 10 full-on years work­ing in an area I love: game and hunt­ing man­age­ment.

Over the next few months the is­sues got big­ger and it looked like the hard work of a hel­luva lot of peo­ple in the past decade was go­ing to un­ravel. It got to the stage where I couldn’t re­lax, wind down, or sleep or eat for days and I dropped 10 ki­los in weight in a cou­ple weeks; it was crazy. The crunch came for me af­ter a meet­ing in the Min­is­ter’s of­fice when I was wait­ing to board a flight home. I re­ceived a phone call from one of the peo­ple in the meet­ing who rang con­cerned about my men­tal state and health. It was like a light had come on and I said: ‘You know what, you are dead right.’

I went home, sorted out a few things on my desk and emailed the Di­rec­tor Gen­eral telling him about the phone con­ver­sa­tion and that I had some very real prob­lems I needed to deal with and that the black dog had a re­ally good hold of me and I needed help — med­i­cal help. I ba­si­cally slept 20 hours a day for the next week and also got the doc­tor to re­fer me for counselling and help. I had amaz­ing sup­port from my wife and fam­ily, friends and also my work, and I started com­ing out the other side.

About 10 weeks later I was driv­ing home when I had this un­usual pain in my chest and back, and a hor­ri­ble woozy feel­ing. Bug­ger me, I thought, the head was com­ing right and now the ticker was giv­ing me what for. I pulled over and thought I was go­ing to check out on the side of the road. I can re­mem­ber think­ing, this is a bit em­bar­rass­ing, dy­ing on the side of the road — crazy, eh? But I came around a bit and (fool­ishly) car­ried on driv­ing home. I had an­other at­tack and my poor wife had to drive me to the hospi­tal in the mid­dle of the night where they quickly rigged me up to var­i­ous heart ma­chines and mon­i­tors. I can re­mem­ber ly­ing there think­ing, all this shit just re­ally isn’t worth it! Fun­nily enough, the ticker prob­lems and that thought re­ally helped me get back on track. It took a while, 20 months in fact, be­fore I got back fir­ing on all cylin­ders.

I had moved into an­other area, biose­cu­rity, and even­tu­ally had more than 100 peo­ple work­ing for me on a full-on project for seven months; I was def­i­nitely back on the horse.

An­other in­ter­est­ing ex­pe­ri­ence I had dur­ing this pe­riod was re-ap­ply­ing for my firearms li­cence. I was hon­est and ticked the box about men­tal health is­sues and pro­vided them with in­for­ma­tion and doc­tors’ ref­er­ences. This re­ally set off an in­ter­est­ing chain of events with the Firearms Reg­istry, which was pos­si­bly as a re­sult of in­com­pe­tence, bad pro­to­cols and pro­ce­dures, or poorly trained staff — pos­si­bly all three!

First of all, they didn’t get my reap­pli­ca­tion pro­cessed in time, then they told me they wanted more in­for­ma­tion, but wouldn’t tell me what they wanted for three months. Then they de­cided to can­cel my li­cence (which had ex­pired), then they de­cided I should have my firearms seized but I wasn’t at home when they called round in of­fice hours, I was at work, so I was given the op­tion of drop­ping them into the lo­cal firearms and hunt­ing shop, which I did.

This turned out to be a good thing as the boys there treated me well and I am eter­nally grate­ful to them. My firearms mean a lot to me and this was the first time in 40 years that I did not have them and I did not know if I would get them back. Next day I got a very apolo­getic call from the shop to say that the Reg­istry had asked them to trans­fer my firearms out of my name and put them on their list. I was ab­so­lutely gut­ted. Never mind, I now set about the task of get­ting my firearms li­cence back, which I duly did, four long months later. But wait, there is one last twist in the Reg­istry saga: they messed up my per­mits to ac­quire, not once, not twice, but three times, and this is when I was deal­ing with one of their man­agers di­rectly on it. Un­be­liev­able but true. I am not sure if this was in­com­pe­tence or they were try­ing me out — you de­cide.

Now, you may ask why I have taken you through this pro­tracted saga? The rea­son is sim­ple: we need to be there for our fam­ily and friends if de­pres­sion does hit. If it does hap­pen with a mate who owns firearms, we need to look out for them and help them through the process and en­sure that they and their firearms are looked af­ter ap­pro­pri­ately. It may come down to a sim­ple ques­tion: ‘Are you al­right mate?’ — and be ready for the an­swer.

Some­thing to think and talk about around the camp­fire with your mates. Safe hunt­ing, BB.

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