Ashley’s daily battle to get over suicide of workmate
ONE bloke asking another bloke how he is "feeling" is likely to get little more than a shrug or a curious glance.
Men, generally, don't delve into each other's personal lives.
It's even harder when you are a local rugby league identity. Someone seen as big, tough and strong.
But barely a day goes by that Ashley Robinson doesn't wish he'd taken the time to "dig deeper" into the personal life of one of his colleagues.
The Alex Surf Club general manager had the harrowing experience of walking into the home of the colleague and finding he had taken his own life.
Now, six months after the incident, Ashley agreed to share his story of guilt, grief and depression in the hope it would somehow help others.
"If you think a person has a problem, you need to dig deeper than 'I'm all right'," he said. "I don't know how. I
haven't got an answer to that. The more I think about it, the more I wish I had pushed harder.
"Someone who worked closely with both of us said we needed to talk to him and I didn't.
"It's a pride thing, I think.
"That someone has been very supportive for me through this ordeal."
Ashley had known the staff member was going through difficulties, but hadn't realised the extent.
"It was in January. He didn't show up for work one day. I thought I'd give him a day not to worry about it and then if he didn't turn up, I'd go looking for him," he said.
"He had some issues. We'd discussed them to a point over the last couple of years. I'd ask if he was 'fine'. He'd say 'I'm fine'.
"We had a couple of disagreements. A part of me felt like I gave up (on him). He became quieter and looked angrier.
"When I asked how he was and he'd say 'no problem' and I'd let him go.
"At some stage I thought I had to let him run his own race. I knew he had issues only he could deal with.
"I didn't bother to dig and deeper. I regret that now but there is nothing I can do about it."
When the man didn't turn up for work for a second day, Ashley went to his home.
"I knocked on the door. It was locked and I was going to leave. Then I saw the garage door was open and I went in and ... I knew, for obvious reasons.
"I didn't have my phone so I had to go the neighbour's unit, which I regret as she had to be part of it then.
"I stayed around until the police came and they were unbelievable with me. They took the pressure right off, the way they handled things."
They also gave Ashley a card he would later be very thankful for. It was for Standby Response, the Sunshine Coast's award-winning suicide "postvention" service.
At first, Ashley coped. At least on the surface.
"The club was very supportive. It was not only me affected. A lot of people were affected," he said.
"It's the nature of surf clubs, everyone pulled together."
He said it was a few weeks later that he began to feel the full impact of what had happened.
"Every day it came up more. I felt a range of emotions. I felt guilty. Did I do enough to try and prevent it?
"That's the hardest.
"I never met his family till the memorial service (a few months later) and through their strength, they helped me deal with it.
"It doesn't work to try and block the issue out of your life.
"Just recently a guy I played football with suicided. It was a shock. It brought it all back to me."
Not a day has gone by that Ashley hasn't remembered what he witnessed.
But with the passing of time and the support of family, the club and Standby Response service, he is able to cope.
"I'm a bit of an introvert/ extrovert kind of person, but I suffer from some form of depression myself," he said.
"I find meditating helps me. I don't lie in bed wishing I am more successful than I am.
"I don't understand why I feel this way. I'm not overly successful, but I'm happy with what I've got.
"These things highlight the fact the most important thing is your family, your mates and dogs and cats and whoever is close to you.
"What makes you feel good is not a new car or a million dollars."