My Kitchen Rules

Change your mindset, change your life

This reality TV star has joined forces with beyondblue to tell you where to go and what to do if your bad days are becoming too much to handle.

You might recognise Mark Virgona as the bubbly footy fanatic who made it through to the quarter-finals on My Kitchen Rules last year – a complete change from 2015, when he was struggling just to make it through each day.

The father-of-two describes his experience with depression as a steady downhill decline that led to a ‘really rough’ part of his life.

‘It started with a negative attitude and staying in bed a little longer each morning,’ he says, which soon turned into lethargy and apathy: ‘I’d cancel appointments and I wouldn’t even care.’

It was some time before he realised this wasn’t just a few bad days. ‘I’m a very bubbly person so people were telling me I wasn’t myself, but you just go through the motions and don’t think anything is wrong,’ he says.

‘I got into alcohol as a coping mechanism,’ he continues. ‘Then I started having thoughts of suicide. That’s when I knew something had to change.’

Despite knowing he needed help, he wasn’t sure where to find it.

My Kitchen Rules
Mark Virgona with best friend and fellow My Kitchen Rules contestant Chris Jongebloed
Mark Virgona
Mark Virgona

Fortunately, Mark’s doctor was able to steer him in the right direction by designing a treatment plan that included a referral to a psychologist and a six-month period of medication.

‘A GP will give you a basic assessment, put you in touch with the right professionals, and they might prescribe medication, but it depends on the situation,’ Mark says.

Seeking advice or treatment is as straightforward as booking a standard appointment with a GP (this doesn’t have to be your usual doctor) and asking about your symptoms, but for those suffering from mental illness it can be daunting to take the first step.

‘That’s what prompted me to become a beyondblue speaker,’ says Mark. He hopes his advocacy work helps to not just show people why it’s important to speak up, but also teaches them how.

Coming back from the place he’d found himself in wasn’t easy, nor did it happen overnight: ‘I started expressing myself to the people around me and I got support from them, especially my best friend Chris who kept inviting me over for dinner even though I always said no.’

‘A GP will give you a basic assessment, put you in touch with the right professionals’

But when he did start accepting the invitations and socialising more often, he was surprised at how great he felt. And soon he was back to exercising, playing football, and spending time with his two boys, too.

‘Today, life’s a lot more vibrant,’ Mark says. ‘I always make sure I’m having fun with the kids, my alarm goes off early, I eat well, and I focus on setting and achieving little goals throughout the day.’

Watching and listening to inspirational and informational videos that offer tips for managing depression has also been a key part of Mark’s continued wellbeing, which requires him to check-in with himself regularly. ‘If I’m feeling flat and I’m in the car I’ll put on something motivational rather than listening to the radio,’ he says.

‘Everyone’s going to have down days, but if you don’t deal with them – or you ignore the signs that you’re not well – that’s where depression can stem from,’ he says. ‘You’ve got to change your thought process to change your life.’

Visit www.hia.com.au/about/initiatives/beyondblue

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