There was only one week between when Katrina Campbell’s husband, Scott, first saw his GP about mounting stress, and when he took his own life.
The newly married couple were living in Tamworth, where Katrina still lives today, and Scott had the opportunity to apply for the role of Executive Officer at the Northern Inland Sports Academy where he worked.
“He was only 27 at the time. He just felt that he wasn’t ready for it, but he felt like there was a lot of pressure to apply and get the job,” Katrina says.
Her husband’s mounting anxiety left Katrina in “unchartered territory”.
“I had no idea where to turn or what to say, or what not to say.
“Scotty was more than happy to talk to me about the fact he was struggling, he was more open to it than most guys because of his work. Mental health was something the academy helped its athletes with.
“The problem was, he didn’t want anyone else to know. He didn’t want his peers to know in case it reflected badly on his job application.”
The couple decided to seek help from their GP.
“Scotty was so insistent on seeing someone he was able to get in, whereas you would usually have to wait six weeks. I was proud of him for being so insistent,” Katrina says.
Scott saw his GP on Wednesday 8 May 2013 and, over the next few days, also saw a psychologist and was prescribed antidepressants.
“But there was a lot of self-doubt, and anxiety, sleeplessness. He had not slept for a week, so his rationale wasn’t there. That combination of things ended up in that snap decision to take his life.
“The hardest part has been wondering, how could he not think about the result? About me being left here by myself? That shows you what mindframe he was in.”
To get through the first year after Scott’s death, Katrina says she made a conscious effort to keep busy and see people, acknowledging that socialising was “very hard”. She also threw herself into organising the inaugural White Elephant Winter Ball, a fundraiser she conceived to raise money for youth mental health organisation batyr.
“I’ve found organising the Ball very therapeutic. It has also been very confronting, being out there talking about my experience. But it means there is something positive coming out of something so negative.”
The Ball was first held in Scotty’s memory in 2014, and then again in 2015 and 2016. While Katrina worried no one would come in the first year, the Ball has gone on to be so popular its most recent instalment sold out in minutes.
“It’s because of the love for Scotty,” Katrina says.
The Ball has raised almost $300,000, enabling batyr to have staff based in the Tamworth area and to deliver mental health programs to 3000 local school and university students.
“I chose batyr because I want to educate teenagers about signs and symptoms of mental illness and suicide. In my own school years we got taught about physical health and sexual health, but never any mental health education. Educating teenagers, getting them to talk about it, will help remove the stigma and give them information they can use. Personally, I thought Scotty was stressed, but I didn’t know the fact that he was not sleeping and really stressed could result in suicide.”
While Katrina describes the passage of time since Scotty’s death as “three very long years”, she is looking forward to some positive changes in 2017, including getting married in February.
"Everyone always said to me it will get easier and I always thought 'oh how could it possibly get easier'. But it does."