'Norman Gunston' tells Australia: I was a basket case

Only two weeks ago sports commentator Mike Gibson lost a long battle with depression. Now another public icon has opened up about his own battle with depression and anxiety in the hope it will help others.

The man is entertainment performer Garry McDonald, who shot to fame back  in the early 1970s with his portrayal of Norman Gunston, a dull and talentless local TV reporter.

McDonald has suffered from anxiety since his 20s, but never came to terms with his condition until he had to confront it after a public breakdown in the 1990s.

On Monday night a courageous McDonald bared all on ‘All in the Mind’ on the ABC’s Australian Story; the show was the most watched non-news program, showing that this is an issue that affects us all.

McDonald said despite an increased awareness in the community about mental health and depression, “anxiety disorders are just never cottoned onto.”

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In his own case, the more successful Norman became the more McDonald doubted himself.

“My mind would always be telling me I was going to make a fool of myself and people … were looking at me and saying, ‘Oh, God, that show he did last night was dreadful’.”

He managed to battle his nerves to an extent, going on to star in the hit TV series Mother and Son, but cracked after relaunching the Norman Gunston Show in 1993.

The subsequent cancellation of the show made his anxiety even worse.

“But there was nothing I could do. I was a basket case,” McDonald said.

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Once he was diagnosed with anxiety and depression he began treatment, a form of cognitive behaviour therapy, which he said changed his life.

Since then he has campaigned to help reduce the stigma of anxiety and depression and has been a member of beyondblue’s board for 10 years.

In his interview on Australian Story he called for more high-profile people to go public and tell their own stories.

“There’s a terrible, terrible need for people to talk about anxiety,” he said.

Click here to watch what he had to say.

If you or someone you know needs help, you can contact the beyondblue support service on 1300 22 4636.

Do you suffer from depression or do you have a close family member who does? What have you done to help combat it?