By Nathalie Bonney @nathaliebonney
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Videographer / Director: Ryan Gasparini
Producer: Nathalie Bonney, Ruby Coote
Editor: Sonia Estal
For Pat Lawson, 32, growing up with depression wasn’t something he so much tried to hide as something he wasn't even fully aware of.
It wasn’t until his attempted suicide three years ago, aged 30, that Pat sought the medical help he’d needed for so long - and finally shared with others the depression he had been battling alone all his life.
The father of two, from Wagga Wagga, Australia, set up an online group and charity to support men with mental illnesses called Three Words, named after the three most important words anyone with a mental illness can say: ‘I need help.’
Pat told Barcroft TV: “I need help is the hardest words I have ever said.
“There is definitely four days in my life that I never forget; both my kids being born are two days, the day I got married one of them and the day of my suicide attempt.
“It feels like you have nobody around you, I was surrounded by beautiful people at that time, my wife, my kids, my family. Depression really kicks you in the guts, makes you feel so alone and very sad all the time. It’s hard to describe it because it’s a feeling of nothingness.”
Just 20 years ago, depression and mental health weren’t on the radar in the small rural town of Wagga Wagga, where Pat lived with his two sisters and parents. None of his family ever suspected that Pat was anything other than the happy-go-lucky, gregarious person they saw.
His mum, Vicki, said: “Patrick is that person who could walk in to a room and bring life. He could talk to anyone about anything.”
Sister Sharnie added: “We wouldn’t have thought Patrick had depression, he was always the life of the party, if you are at a wedding or a function he would be the one at the middle of the dance floor.”
After leaving school, Pat started work as a butcher and started dating his now wife, Cara, when he was 21. The couple married before having two children, Charlotte, seven, and Thomas, five.
But in spite of their closeness, Pat continued to battle his depression alone.
He said: “I had thought about taking my life previously before my attempt but yeah it was one of the things that I just thought were natural human emotions.”
Describing it, as if he had a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other, Pat was fighting a perpetual internal battle over if his family would be better off with or without him.
He said: “I had this constant fight with my head saying I wasn’t good enough, and the wife and the kids would be better off without me.
“It was like that angel and demon you see in cartoons. The demon was telling me that they would be better off without me; the angel was saying ‘no they won’t’ and it was just a constant fight.”
Eventually the demon won.
It was on a beautiful, sunny February morning in 2015 that Patrick made the decision to attempt suicide.
Having being signed off work with a mild case of gastritis, on the second day of his sick leave, Pat woke up not wanting to even get out of bed.
Cara offered to take their children to school. Pat recalls cuddling them “that little bit longer” and kissing them “one extra time” before they left the house.
He said: “I went out into the garage. I attempted to hang myself.
“My plan was to send my wife a text message and let her know that none of this is her fault. This is something I need to do for them to keep them happy.
“And then, as soon as I press send my plan was to call 000 the Australia paramedics number. I didn’t want anyone else to find me.
“I was standing on a step ladder in the garage, I have got a rope around my neck, I’m ready to take the next step forward - all I had to do was press send on my phone.”
But Pat was unable to physically hit send.
He explained: “It was like something had been tied around my thumb and was holding it back.”
With that, Pat woke up from what he was about to do.
He said: “I got this beautiful light in my eyes and it was one of the most beautiful moments. Everything just sort of kicked in and I looked up and went ‘what the f*ck am I doing?'
“I got down and I cut that rope up into tiny little pieces so it could never be used again. And I threw it across the yard.”
In spite of nearly hanging himself, Pat planned to carry on as if nothing had happened but his “snot and tears” crying, as Pat describes it, saved him.
“I was so grateful for having that ugly cry because if I hadn’t, Cara wouldn’t have known there was something wrong. Cara wouldn’t have asked me if I was OK.
“One of the hardest things I have ever done in my life is tell my wife that I tried to take my own life. How do you tell your loved one that?"
Cara remembers the moment her husband told her he had wanted to die by suicide. She said: “We were sitting at the back table and the kids had gone to sleep.
“I was pretty angry the moment Patrick told me what he had tried to do and that that was going through his mind.
“I couldn’t believe he was thinking about not being there for us and I couldn’t help but be angry at him for not wanting to be around us. That’s something I hadn’t dealt with at all before. So it was a real shock.”
Not long after this Pat went to a doctors where he was diagnosed with depression and started to receive medical treatment immediately. After sharing his struggles on Facebook, he was overwhelmed by the number of men who came forward about their own mental health issues.
As a result, he started the charity Three Words and, as well as managing the online community, has spoken at schools, sports clubs and workplaces.
He has also changed jobs and now works as a support and recovery worker for a housing programme.
Pat said: “My hope is that people can see where I have come from to where I am and take a little bit of life from that, but I also hope that it allows them to see, opening up and starting conversations is one of the first steps to your recovery."
Statistically male suicide rates are far higher than female: in Australia and the UK, they are approximately three times higher, and in the USA as much as 3.5 times higher.
“Male depression is very much taboo, without being sexist in any way I think one of the biggest things with male depression is that males are so stubborn these days we feel like - and I am one of these types as well - ‘I could deal with this myself’…we don’t speak up enough,” Pat said.
‘My mental illness does not define me and it never will but it has helped me become the person I am today.”