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Dennis' story

Lifeline helped Dennis through some of this darkest moments. Today, he gives back by volunteering on the phones.

At age 18, Dennis joined the Army and went through the Australian Defence Force Academy and later underwent officer training at the Royal Military College, Duntroon. Over the years, Dennis underwent rigorous training that prepared him for some of the toughest circumstances you could imagine.

But he never thought that among them would be suicide.

“I was deployed to East Timor twice. When I came back, I was different. Looking back now I know I wasn’t normal. But back then, I didn’t have any idea about depression or mental health,” Dennis said.

For years, Dennis struggled with undiagnosed depression that soon turned to thoughts of suicide. His military training taught him to overcome challenges and be self-reliant, but Dennis truly needed help.

“My thoughts became so dark, it was overwhelming. All I could think was that I didn’t want to burden the people in my life anymore. I thought they would be better off without me,” Dennis said.

In 2004-2005 Dennis’ unaddressed mental health worsened and he was hospitalised three times after serious suicide attempts. The doctors said he was incredibly lucky to be alive.

Each time Dennis left hospital, he struggled to find the support he needed to pull himself out of the terrible cycle.

Dennis called Lifeline for help many times during those years.

“I remember one time I was suicidal when I called. I spoke to a gentleman and he helped stop me being at risk of hurting myself. For someone to just say, “it’s okay mate, we’ll have a chat” – it takes such a weight off your shoulders,” Dennis said.

Dennis worked with psychologists to address his depression and started to recover. Telling all his family and friends what he had been through was an integral but challenging part of his journey.

“I served 19 years in the army. I ran into fires as a firefighter. But, my mental health is the toughest thing I’ve had to face,” Dennis said.

Today, Dennis has his mental health under control. But his work on the front lines isn’t over. He is now a trained Lifeline Telephone Crisis Supporter and helps save lives with every shift.

“…my mental health is the toughest thing I’ve had to face.”