PLENTY TO SAY: A relaxed John Brogden spoke at Lismores Red Dove Centre yesterday about mental illness and his own suicide att
PLENTY TO SAY: A relaxed John Brogden spoke at Lismores Red Dove Centre yesterday about mental illness and his own suicide att

Brogden discusses depression, not politics

By Alex Easton

JOHN BROGDEN doesn't like to talk about how close he came to becoming Premier of NSW.

But in 2005, that's what was widely tipped for him; when then Premier Bob Carr had quit politics and Mr Brogden was poised to lead the Coalition back to power after more than a decade in opposition.

Then it all fell apart.

Mr Brogden was forced to resign his leadership of the NSW Liberal Party after he referred to Mr Carr's wife, Helena, as a 'mail order bride' at a function. A day later, amid claims elements within his party were undermining him, Mr Brogden was rushed to hospital after trying to kill himself at his Pittwater electorate office.

Mr Brogden is now back in the public eye as the chief executive of health insurer Manchester Unity, the chair of a mix of other organisations, and as patron of Lifeline.

It was in the latter capacity that he yesterday addressed a packed Red Dove Centre at Lismore and spoke about his suicide attempt and attitudes to mental illness.

"You should never try and apply rational thought to a suicide attempt," Mr Brogden said. "It doesn't make sense ... you irrationally rationalise the fact that the best way out for you and for those around you is for you to go."

The suicide attempt was not the turning point. That came later, in hospital.

"It gets worse before it gets better, but it did get better," he said. "At the darkest points where the doctors were saying it would get better and friends would say it'll be all right, it was almost as if they were torturing me."

Australians had a language about mental illness aimed at avoiding it and denigrating it, he said.

Australians had to be able to talk about mental illness with the same ease with which they talked about cancer or broken bones, he said.

Mr Brogden said he was managing depression with medication and a healthy lifestyle, but he would never return to politics. Asked if he thought the Coalition would have won this year's State election had he remained leader he said: "I don't dwell on that hypothetical."



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