by Samantha Malagre
His depression would surface in the mornings. He had no confidence to face the day. He did not want to make a decision. For 43 years, he dealt with extreme anxiety and dread.
Andrew Robb, Federal Shadow Minister for Finance, resisted advice and treatment for his depression for decades. He was afraid of the stigma attached to depression. He was also afraid the stigma would affect his career as a highly regarded politician.
Mr Robb talked about his struggle with depression, which was notably described in his recent book, Black Dog Daze, with writer and journalist Lisa Pryor at the Sydney Writers’ Festival.
Despite his debilitating illness, Mr Robb was productive throughout his years of his untreated depression, even running the election campaign for John Howard.
“Most people think that if you’re depressed, you can’t be productive,” he said.
Diagnosed finally in 2009, he was placed on a cocktail of drugs, one of which made him worse, although he says he never had suicidal thoughts. Mr Robb said he finally found medication that worked effectively to remove the symptoms and has now returned to full duties in his political life.
Andrew Robb said men’s intolerance of depression is worse in rural areas. However, he believes depression should be acknowledged and that it is important for men who are feeling depressed to tell someone.
Mr Robb reached out his friend, former Victorian Premier, Jeff Kennett, who is on the board of Beyond Blue, the national depression initiative that provides information on the illness.
He said there are many men, and women too, who need the comfort of knowing that depression is an illness like any other.
Surprisingly, he says the stigma attached to depression is a concern that he shares, but understands why people diagnosed as depressed don’t tell their employers.
“Even though people are tolerate and understanding, if I were under 40, I would never have gone public,” he says.
Andrew Robb is happy he was able to seek treatment and return to a busy political life, but acknowledges that for many, that isn’t always possible. He recommends that anyone suffering from depression to seek support.
“Support and resources are needed in our society. I would like to see people get access to the resources they need.”