Nic Newling on R U OK Day

Despite his difficult journey Nic Newling shares his experience with mental illness and the death of his brother to help others.

After what Nic Newling has been through in his 29 years, it is extraordinary that he is now in a position to communicate the benefits of seeking help when you are struggling with life.

Nic’s Story

Experiencing a mood disorder throughout high school in Sydney, Nic had a string of misdiagnoses from age 13 to 17 including; OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), anxiety, psychosis and schizophrenia. He even spent time in a psychiatric ward before he was diagnosed with bipolar at 17.

In 2002, Nic’s brother Christopher, who had been diagnosed a year earlier with depression and severe anxiety, took his own life.
In part to cope with the devastation, Nic’s mother Jayne, who had worked as a journalist, documented his story. 

“It was very much her wanting to make a positive impact in some way, to turn this horrible experience into something that might be beneficial to parents or people struggling,” Nic says. 

“And she thought it might be an idea to sort of get it all out of her.”
It was also a way of remembering Christopher. 

“Part of my condition is that I would forget a lot,” Nic says. 
“So over the years after my brother died I could remember less and less of him.”

“I bugged Mum, ‘Can you write a little something about my brother so I can hang onto it?’”

That became a moving memoir ‘Missing Christopher’ which was published last year by Allen and Unwin.

Now Nic shares his story with students, and in workplaces and at conferences. 

“It’s to try to and take what I’ve learnt from my personal experience and give that to other people to hopefully benefit them.”

Nic (pictured below) works at the not-for-profit Black Dog Institute and on a online wellbeing program called BITE BACK. He is also an ambassador for R U OK Day.
Nic Newling portrait

Are you OK Day

R U OK? Day is a national day of action dedicated to reminding people to regularly check in with family and friends to see how they’re faring.

“R U OK day is a tremendously powerful message,” he says. 
Nic says it’s more than just one day of action, but it’s an important time to stop and think about mental illness and how it affects the lifes of those around us.
“I know that R U OK? works really hard to encourage these conversations throughout the year,” Nic says.

“What R U OK is all about to me is about creating an environment where people feel comfortable talking about it.”

“It’s not simply the on the surface – ‘Are you OK?’ ‘Yes’. ‘Good. OK. Great. Bye.’ It’s about encouraging people to have meaningful conversations that really can save lives,” Nic says.

“It’s also a time for people to become more educated about these sorts of things.”

Encouraging conversation

 “I truly believe that mental illness is one of the few areas of medicine where we have to rely upon our speaking and our listening, our mouths and our ears, to diagnose and treat these things.”

“There’s no blood test for depression, no brain scan for anxiety.”

“If we can encourage people to feel comfortable about talking about whatever issue they might be having it can have an impact far beyond the people around them.”
“Collectively, as a country, we can change the way we think about and talk about mental illnesses and that can have a huge impact on lots of levels.”

Nic advises anyone with a problem to tell someone, ideally someone who is close to you that you trust, and to seek help online or from groups like the youth mental health initiative Headspace.
“It’s about recognising that mental illnesses are not the end of your life… The more we talk about it the better it is for everyone.”
If you’re concerned that someone you know is in crisis, it’s important that this be taken seriously. Get immediate professional help or call an emergency help line to obtain advice and support.

Headspace 1800 650 89
Lifeline 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467

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