“One of the things I loved most about being a member of the Police Force was that I was a member of a really big, close knit family. I have that again now with Black Dog Institute. It’s a great community with a great purpose."
Craig is a Youth and Community Volunteer who started with the Black Dog Institute in July 2015. Recently Craig has toured around Rural WA and NSW on his bike, presenting at schools and community centres in Quairading, Molong Peak Hill and Mudgee just to name a few.
I live up at Coffs Harbour on the NSW North Coast. I am married with three sons. I was a career Detective in the NSW Police Force for 25 years until my retirement in 2013. I specialised in drug and outlaw motorcycle gang investigations.
My retirement from the Police Force was as a result of medical discharge for PTSD and Major Depressive Disorder.
When did you first start with black dog?
I had been very unwell for about three years after my discharge and reached my lowest point in March 2015 which resulted in a trip to the hospital emergency. After that I made a promise to myself that I would find a way forward. I came up with a strategy and a new `game plan’.
Part of that plan was to find a way to turn my illness into something positive. I got in touch with Black Dog Institute, told my story and offered to do some fundraising. They had a better idea and offered me a role as a volunteer presenter. I started with Black Dog in July 2015.
How many presentations have you done?
A lot! Mainly all over rural NSW plus one tour of the West Australian Wheatbelt. So far I’ve presented to around 4,500 kids, teachers, emergency services, farmers and community groups.
Interesting fact about yourself?
In April this year, I conquered the Kokoda Track. I teamed up with a former Police colleague and a former Corrective Services Officer (Both PTSD survivors) to raise money for Black Dog Institute. So far this year our Kokoda fundraiser has raised about $10,000.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Riding my motorcycle and exercise!!! I surf, work out in the gym, walk our beaches and trek my local mountain range. I love relaxing at a café with a flat white (extra shot) while analysing the world through a newspaper. Did I mention riding my motorcycle?
Can you remember your first presentation? What was it like?
I remember it so well. I use it as an example when I’m talking about building resilience. I was still a long way from recovery when I turned up at Woolgoolga High School to talk to 170 kids. I was so massively terrified of fronting and sharing my private life and mental illness that I nearly turned the car around and drove home. But I didn’t!! I got in there, got through and felt a little stronger for it.
Over the next couple of years the more talks I did the stronger I felt. I had purpose again. I had my self-esteem back. I was proud of what I was doing. Doing these presentations has been the cornerstone of my eventual recovery. When I left the Police Force I truly believed that NOTHING would ever be able to fill me with the same level of satisfaction, purpose and fulfilment. I was wrong.
What do you enjoy about being a volunteer presenter?
One of the things I loved most about being a member of the Police Force was that I was a member of a really big, close knit family. I have that again now with Black Dog Institute. It’s a great community with a great purpose. Also, the research, brand and reputation of Black Dog Institute is second to none.
What has been your favourite experience with Black Dog Institute so far?
I have so many. I guess there are two that stand out. I’ll share one because the other takes some explaining.
After one rural talk a young man about 16 years of age waited in line for a chat. When he got to me he introduced himself and said, “My mum died from suicide when I was a little boy. For my whole life I have been really confused. I did not understand why she did it. I want to thank you because now, after listening to you…I finally do.”