SQUASH: Brian Simpson was a very successful squash player until 2006. These scrapbooks are kept so he remembers his triumphs. (CREDIT: Adam Daunt)
SQUASH: Brian Simpson was a very successful squash player until 2006. These scrapbooks are kept so he remembers his triumphs. (CREDIT: Adam Daunt)

'I never got better': Sporting champ's mental health battle

IN 2006, Brian Simpson won his 90th and final squash title at the Australian Masters.

But just four years later, he found himself in a psychiatric ward.

After a successful career which had taken him across the globe, it was period which Mr Simpson never expected to endure.

He had a job as a regional manager for a government organisation and described it as a "totally toxic environment".

"I lasted 12 months and ended up in the psychiatric unit," Mr Simpson said.

"Moved from Coffs Harbour to Byron Bay, lived in a caravan park, I was getting treatment (for mental health) by a psychiatrist in Byron Bay and he was … completely sold on the effects of ECT (electroconvulsive therapy).

"I never got better, I just continually slid."

From endorsing Head racquets to barely covering rent and electricity bills with his pension, the descent was rapid.

"I moved to Lennox Head from Byron Bay, rent and electricity took up most of my money, what it didn't I turned to alcohol and I became totally lost," Mr Simpson said.

"I'd go down to the hotel in Lennox, drink a couple of glasses of wine in the morning, 10.30 in the morning, then I'd go home and drink a bottle."

A chance meeting was responsible for turning his life around for the better.

"I met this guy in the Lennox Hotel and we became friends," Mr Simpson said.

"He knew my story … and he said, 'I am an outreach worker for St Vincent De Pauls … have you ever thought about coming to Lismore?'

"I thought I had nothing to lose, I can't continue to live here (Lennox Head)."

Settling in Lismore, Mr Simpson found the fresh start he had been needing.

In his own words, he found "paradise".

"Everyone here has just been so welcoming," he said.

"I've got a couple of good friends at the Lismore Workers Club, really good friends, they're accepting of me, they're really supportive."

Mr Simpson's Lismore experience is "a world away" from the dark abyss he faced two years ago.

"This is another life beginning for me, this is another chance, I've gotta take advantage of it," he said.

If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.



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