Mental Health Week: Black Dog to Goal Posts (Reprised)

My battle with Depression

By Jason Kevin Groves.

My name is Jason Kevin Groves and I suffer from Depression.

I was first diagnosed almost ten years ago, after having a break down. I was in Melbourne doing research for a novel, which I had been working on since 1996.

On the afternoon of the break down, I had been spending some time at Optus Oval, the home of the Carlton Football Club. The main character in my novel, which is called “The Alien Factory”, is a board member at Carlton, so I thought that I would watch the team train and then have a look around the club.

After spending three or four hours at the club, I went back to where I was staying to have some dinner and then I planned to go to a pub, which was two blocks away from where I was staying and see a band. At about 8.30, I headed there, after dinner and a little television.

When I arrived at the pub, there were already a lot of people there, but I did manage to get a seat at the bar. I had been there for about half an hour before the band went on stage.

It was well into the bands second set when I started to feel dizzy. A few minutes latter, I started to feel claustrophobic, so I decided to go outside and get some air. I went for a walk around the block.

The next thing I remember, I was standing on the edge of the Yarra River, on South Bank with thoughts of jumping in. It was then that I heard the voice of my Grandfather, who had died of cancer in 1990. The voice said that things were not that bad and that I should go to a hospital and seek help. After about an hour of walking, I found myself outside the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

I made my way nervously into the emergency room and headed for the reception desk. After telling the receptionist what was going on, I was told to sit down and that a nurse would come and speak to me when there was one available.

Thirty minutes or so went by and I was exhausted. Finally a nurse come out and called my name. She ushered me into a small room, where she asked me a few questions and took my blood pressure. When she was finished she told me to go back sit down and wait for a doctor.

I sat in the ER for what seemed like hours before a doctor came out and took me back to the small room. After asking me a few more questions, he went and made a phone call. When he returned he said that I should spend a few days in hospital so they could run a few tests.

He took me down a large hallway, which lead to the other side of the hospital. At last we reached our destination; the John Cade Centre. I spent four days in the center, over which time I was interviewed by a number of doctors who after consultation, diagnosed me with Depression. They told me a little about depression and put me on anti-depressants.

After four days, I was sent back home to Mortlake, where I had been living with my parents. I was also given a letter for my family doctor.

The Monday after I got home, I made an appointment with my GP. I managed to get in latter that day and my mother went to the appointment with me. My GP asked me some of the same questions the doctors in Melbourne asked me. He also asked my mother a few questions because there are a number of symptoms of depression, which the sufferer may not notice, but which will be evident to the people around them.

Mum told my GP that I always stayed up late and that at time, my appetite had fluctuated. My staying up late had caused some friction between myself and my parents. When I did go to bed, sometimes I did not get up until the afternoon.

The truth of the matter was that on some nights, I just could not sleep, or I would just drift off to sleep and wake up in a cold sweat after having a nightmare. After a while, I was afraid to sleep. I was feeling low all the time. Even when I was doing something, which I really enjoyed, I could get no joy. It got to the stage where I did not feel like doing anything at all.


About a month latter, I saw segment on a television show about Beyond Blue. I wanted to learn more about what was happening to me, so I went to the web site and downloaded some information. I also joined an on-line forum for sufferers and people who care for them. This was the beginning of a long journey for me and for my family.

One thing that I did find out while I was reading about depression on-line is that many famous people have suffered from it. One such person is Winston Churchill. He called depression his Black Dog and was quoted as saying “I don’t like standing near the edge of a platform when the express train is passing through. I like to stand right back and if possible get a pillar between me and the train. I don’t like to stand by the side of a ship and look down into the water. A second’s action would end everything. A few drops of desperation”.

Fast forward to early 2005, and I was feeling a lot better. The depression was under control, so I decided to look for some part-time work. One Saturday I was searching the Classifieds of the Warrnambool Standard and an advertisement caught my eye. The ad was for football umpires. I knew a few people who had umpired, so I thought I would look into it.

I called the number in the ad and after chatting with the person who was in charge, Norm Gibson, I decided to go to the meeting, which he was setting up for the following Saturday. It was to be held in the club rooms of the South Warrnambool Football Club.

At the meeting we were told that we would be umpiring the Hampden League games. We also watched a short film about umpiring football, which showed the different types of umpires, which are needed for a game of footy, central, boundary and goals. After watching the film and listening to umpires talk about their experiences, I decided to give goal umpiring a go.

Over the next few months, I trained hard, and soon had a feel for what I had to do. One night at training, one of the experienced goal umpires who was coaching us told a story about how he had been caught up in a pack of players on the goal line and had been accidentally knocked out. This incident had been caught on tape, and a few weeks later somehow made its way onto the AFL Footy show and had won Almost Football Legends. The week after, he was asked to be on the show and talk about what happened to him.

As a writer, this story made me think that there must be many other country footy umpires who had stories to tell. I started to ask around with the aim of writing a magazine or newspaper article, but I soon realized that, with the amount of stories that I getting, that there might be a book in it.

That first season with the Hampden Umpires Panel was a lot of fun and a great learning experience. I ended up umpiring the under 16’s grand final between Warrnambool and Terang Mortlake. At the end of the year, the Hampden Umpires Panel was disbanded. I wanted to continue umpiring, so I joined the Warrnambool and District Football Umpires Association. I have umpired for the WDFUA since then.

Umpiring has helped me a lot with my depression. It has helped to boost my confidence, and I am fitter now, both physically and mentally, than I have been for years. I have also made friends through umpiring, which I will have for the rest of my life. Every season, we have a number of social days and nights where we get together as a group. These nights are always a lot of fun. We also have meals at the WDFUA rooms every Thursday night during the footy season. This includes meals at the WDFUA rooms on Thursday nights.

In late 2006, I moved into a flat by myself. This has been good for me because I can do what I want, when ever I want. I still have bad days, but now I know how to handle the situation when I am feeling low. I have found that if I just take a day for myself and do something that I want to do, such as going for a walk or watching some DVD’s if I feel like staying at home.

I also decided that I wanted to start my own Freelance Writing and Journalism business, so last year I did the NEIS course (New Enterprise Incentive Scheme). NEIS is a government program that helps people set up their own small business.

The plan that I have for my business is to write about things that interest me, such as sci-fi, as I am a big geek. The first big project for my business is the umpire book. I have gone back to the beginning and will be contacting all the umpires who sent me stories, and start gathering more stories. I hope to have the book ready for release by the start of the next season, so that will mean spending most of the off season working on it. This would be much easier with the backing of a publisher, but we will just have to see what happens. I also hope to finish my novel once I have finished Bush Umps.

I hope that in telling my story, I have been able to help others who are in the same position I was to look at what is happening to them, and seek the help they need. This help may just be talking to someone to start with, but I would also advise to seek help from a medical professional.

If you have any stories, I can be contacted via e-mail at [email protected]. I have also set up a Facebook site for the book. The site is

For further information on Depression visit Beyond Blue on-line at





  1. Thanks Jason. Really inspiring story, and a lot more common in one way or another than many people think.
    I used to share morning coffees with a Director of Nursing of a large hospital. We would talk about our personal and professional ups and downs. Her favourite saying was “everyone is pretty normal until you get to know them better”.

  2. I agree wholeheartedly with PeterB, Jason. The black dog has been a “friend” of mine for some years and to hear stories such as yours is important for those of us who have suffered or do suffer from, depression. But it’s also very important for those who haven’t had such misfortune. It helps in their understanding of what people such as yourself have been through.

    Congratulations and thanks for sharing your story.

  3. Brave Jason.

    I hit the wall 11 years ago. Hard.

    Spent a couple of weeks trying hard to keep myself alive. while also trying not to. Very hard for those close to me and hard when you are in the middle of it.

    I wrote in short stories and poor prose the highs and the lows. I have examples of the good and bad days.

    If you want to talk John Harms of Paul Daffy have my contact details.


    I heard you were crying in the bush today, alone
    unashamedly crying beneath the tall trees
    at the swollen river’s edge for that was how you felt
    only the mumbling current and murmuring breeze
    to hear your choked outpouring of emotion so it seemed
    I heard you crying in the bush today.

  4. Alovesupreme says

    I was deeply moved by your piece. I have three points of connection, some-one close to me is a depression survivor, I’ve had a twenty year involvement in umpiring, and I have family connections with Mortlake and other parts of the western district.

    Congratulations on your courage in writing this, and more for just facing every day. I know all too well how much than can cost an individual trying to cope with depression. I also applaud the other comment contributors for their thoughtful observations.

    I’d be happy to contribute some anecdotes for your umpiring book, so I’ll send you an email.

    Stay strong,

  5. Thanks for sharing this story Jason.

    Coming at it from a slightly different angle, I have always thought goal umpiring is probably my last chance of ever getting to play AFL on the MCG. It is buried back there somewhere as a half baked idea for the future. Having never given it much more than 15 seconds thought, I guess I overlooked just how many there are kicking around in leagues all over the country that are well ahead of me in the queue.

    Look forward to seeing the book.

  6. Congrats on a gutsy, straightforward piece of writing.

    If that helps just one person, then you’ve done a great service.

    Good luck with the continuing effort.

  7. Jason, all power to you mate. Takes tremendous courage to write a piece like this. The black dog gets nasty sometimes, but you are its owner and master. Great work.

  8. Good work, Jason. Plainly and honestly said, which adds to its strength.
    My own experience of depression is that, when you keep it to yourself, you think you’re the only person who feels like that but as soon as you mention it to even one person, you’re inundated with stories from others who were also suffering in silence, of burdened by worry about someone in their life who suffers.
    Amazing how talking about it makes it so much better.
    Thanks for starting this conversation.

  9. I just wanted to get this inspiring and courageous piece up the front of our attention in “Are You OK” week.
    I hope you are out there waving the flags in a GF somewhere this weekend Jason.
    Footy is so much more than AFL. Connection, belonging and self worth are so much more important than winning or losing.
    Great yarn.

  10. Great piece Jason
    I have recently “hit the wall” myself as phantom eloquently puts it.
    It was the most terrifying couple of weeks of my life trying to understand what was happening to me.
    Posts like this remind me that we are all in this together

  11. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Fantastic article Jason enormous courage to write this honest and moving piece I too have my moments and the best medicine is talking about the problem . It is no coincidence that suicide rates are lower in females than males why ? Because they talk there problems thru with a girlfriend while we blokes don’t talk at all or who is injured out of our footy sides there are actually more important things ! I have lost several’ mates due to depression and articles such as these do help there are some fantastic comments above Thank you

  12. Troy Hancox says

    Great article Jason, As per Malcolm above ^
    I too have lost a couple of dear mates from depression (we share one particular one Rulebook). I too suffer bouts from time to time. voices in my head, sometimes good, sometimes bad.

    Focussing on positives gets hard, especially when negatives far outweigh the positives, ten fold. I think the nightly news will demonstrate this…..

    Malcolm, you are right. Blokes keep it to themselves, in fear of ridicule…. “a sign of weakness”. judging by everyone’s comments back on the matter. Times have well & truly changed, and rightly so!!! by talking about it is the best way. In fact, i will follow your advice the next down turn i feel.

    Thanks for the enlightenment.

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