From attempted suicide to a life I'm loving

As a 16 year old, Rachael Laidler didn’t want to keep going. She struggled to see a way forward in life, until she found headspace. Rachael shares her inspiring story about her journey to recovery. As told to Christie Cooper. 

CONTENT WARNING: The following article discusses suicide. Reader discretion is advised. If you feel distressed by this article, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Looking back at my school days, I was bullied tremendously right throughout primary school and high school. I remember just feeling so exhausted and thinking that things were never going to get any better for me.

At the time I didn’t realise that the emotions I was feeling weren’t normal, I had convinced myself that it was just part of growing up, and that everyone experienced it: the fatigue that comes with depression, the sadness, the feelings which come with being bullied. I thought, why would I want to live if it’s going to be this awful and this exhausting all the time? 

It wasn’t until I really started considering suicide that I thought… ‘Maybe this isn’t normal?’ The first time I tried was that year, I hadn’t even started my final year of school yet. 

That was 8 years ago, and there have been plenty of tough times between now and then, but there have also been so many incredible times which I’m so glad I didn’t miss out on. I can still understand why I truly believed things weren’t going to get better for me, but I was wrong. 

It didn’t change straight away. 

When my parents finally realised what was happening, they didn’t really know what to do. 

They really wanted to help so they took me to a psychiatrist who told me I had a mental illness, and advised I might never be able to work full time. She was trying to prepare me for the fact that life was going to be more difficult than I had imagined, but I left believing that I was never going to amount to anything. 

I should have tried again, and tried to find a GP or another specialist who I could relate to, but instead I gave up. I dropped out of school and I later dropped out of TAFE. I held jobs for only around 2 months at a time and then I’d quit because I believed that I couldn’t do it. My relationship with my family broke down and as a result, I stopped seeing the psychiatrist because I couldn’t afford it. 
sad girl looking out the window
By the time I was 21 I was heavily into the throes of alcohol abuse, because that was the only way I knew how to cope with my illness. 

I was sitting in a pub with a friend one day, feeling pretty bad, and she said that she’d been to headspace and had a really good experience. She said she could openly tell them what was going on, and she hadn’t been judged. 
 
So I decided to give it another shot. I walked in and booked an appointment.
 
I guess I wasn’t expecting my life to change. I was expecting someone to say, 'here’s 6 pills twice a day, get out of my office'. But that’s not what I got. One of the first things I was told upon talking with a clinician at headspace and telling them about my situation, was: “You have an alcohol dependency. We’re going to find the right person to help you through this.” And I just felt enormous relief. 
 
Three years on, I’ve quit drinking (I haven’t had a drink all year), I’ve stopped smoking, and I can run four whole kilometres at a time! I’m really proud of that one! But more importantly I’m working and studying. 
 
I’ve found this amazing role working as a mental health consumer advocate for an organisation called Being. I can now use my initial crappy experience with mental illness to help make life a little less crappy for others. 
 
Despite not finishing year 12, which is something I’ve always regretted, I’m now planning to go to university next year to study social policy. One day I hope to be able to write mental health policy and help make a real difference.
 
I’m also working as a volunteer for headspace, and I decided to share my story for the very first headspace Day.
 
The headspace team helped me mend my relationship with my family. I can see now they’ve always loved me but for a long time they didn’t know how to help me and that caused a bit of a relationship breakdown. Now I can reach out to them and we work through things together. Sometimes it’s just, 'Can you come and help me cook a meal because I’m really exhausted today.' - the little things can make a really big difference. 
 
I was told a long time ago that because of my mental illness I wasn’t going to be able to live the kind of life that I wanted. But I’ve shattered that. I am loving my life. I’m so proud and so happy with how far I have come in just a couple of years. I never ever would have imagined that this is the life that I could live and that I could actually be proud of myself. But I am. 
headspace day logo
Bupa is partnering with headspace to help raise awareness for their cause, helping young people with mental illnesses. There are close to 100 headspace centres across Australia, along with a phone and internet service called eheadspace. Over the last decade the organisation has supported more than a quarter of a million young people. The inaugural headspace Day is about ensuring every young person has access to mental health services, no matter where they live.

If you want to support headspace Day you can:
  • Wear a headspace day “Access all Areas” wristband on the day, October 11th
  • Share your support on Facebook, Instagram or twitter using the hashtag #headspaceday
  • Donate at www.headspaceday.org.au
Adults needing immediate assistance are also encouraged to call Lifeline on 13 11 14, while young people may prefer to call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800. The Suicide Call Back Service is another resource available which provides free phone (1300 659 467), video and online counselling for anyone affected by suicide.
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