A nod to odd

FOLLOWING his fourth suicide attempt and a schizophrenic stint where he believed he was Jesus, David Tehr decided it might be time to seek help.

These days he’s married with a steady job but back when he wanted to kill himself he couldn’t see any bright days ahead. The attempts started with shooting himself at age nine (he still carries the scar through his stomach), through to making two attempts in two days, aged 33.

“I just didn’t see a future,” he says.

In hospital after his first attempt with a bullet wound in his belly he heard people around the bed saying “what a terrible accident”.

“It wasn’t an accident,” he told them, “I just wanted to get out of there.”

When Robin Williams committed suicide a few people said he’d behaved selfishly by not thinking of the impacts on his family.

But Mr Tehr says he knows how the comic felt: “When I was in that space, I thought the world would be a better place without me.”

Stigma surrounding mental health doesn’t make it easy for most people to talk about it, but it was being open that set Mr Tehr onto the long path of recovery.

• David Tehr and Odd Socks mascot Barbara Alcock. Photo by Matthew Dwyer

• David Tehr and Odd Socks mascot Barbara Alcock. Photo by Matthew Dwyer

When he told his psychiatrist he believed he was Jesus and was given a diagnosis, it was a bit of a weight off.

“It was a lot easier having borderline insanity than being the saviour of the world,” he chuckles.

He got onto the mental health organisation Grow—now based out of Angove Street in North Perth—where every week people gather to chat about their feelings openly, instead of bottling up problems. It started back in the 1950s when the only real option for mental health support groups was to go to Alcoholics Anonymous and just ignore the bits that weren’t applicable.

Mr Tehr says the accountability of going back week after week and checking in progress with other people really helped him.

Health department stats show mental disorders are pretty common: 45.5 per cent of people will have some kind of mental disorder event in their life, and 20 per cent in any year.

Despite being so common, the stigma remains a huge barrier for people from seeking help, so Grow’s holding an “odd socks day” to remind everyone we can all have an odd day and it’s as common as odd socks.

“For many people to admit there is a disorder or mental illness is such a tough thing,” Mr Tehr says.

The Odd Socks Day is on October 3 and Grow’s hoping people share pics of their odd socks on http://www.oddsocksday.org.au

by DAVID BELL

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