Rick Foster

Beyond the illusion

Looking outwards, Rick Foster uses exercise, leisure activities and volunteering to help him in his recovery from depression and anxiety.


Laura Valic

Rick Foster was living a life which, at least from the outside, many people would have envied. He had a loving family, operated a successful financial services business in Adelaide and enjoyed all the trimmings that came with it.

But what those looking on didn’t know, and what Rick himself failed to recognise, was that he was spiralling toward a bleak and shocking collapse.

‘I suffered a major breakdown in 2014 out of nowhere – it literally happened overnight,’ he says. ‘I didn’t see it coming, but now that I look back there were all these little cues. My tolerance levels dropped and I became very angry at certain things – which is out of character for me. Generally, I was less happy with life.’

Turning 50 and facing several abrupt health issues propelled Rick into a spiral of depression and anxiety that lasted for several years.

‘I was having real trouble dealing with that; that sense of loss of youth and the fact that you can’t stop it,’ he says. ‘I was going to work and seeing my clients, who were unaware that I felt absolutely dreadful, like I was being ripped apart inside from anxiety.’

For Rick, the resources and forums on Beyond Blue’s website were a helpful starting point for understanding how he was feeling and getting the medical assistance he needed.

‘it’s so important to have downtime, and downtime away from what is causing your stress’

Now a volunteer Beyond Blue Speaker, he is passionate about encouraging people with mental health issues to seek help as soon as possible.

‘It’s pretty simple really: the sooner you get help, the sooner you’re going to get better,’ Rick says. ‘Why suffer any longer than you have to? I know it’s not the same for everyone, but for me it was awful.’

Rick says living with anxiety meant simple activities, such as going to the mall, were fraught with tension. Bewilderingly, he found himself suddenly dreading what lay beyond the sliding glass doors.

‘I would feel my adrenaline going through the roof and think “this is stupid, why am I scared?”

‘[But] if I had to describe the anxiety, it’d be like getting put in a cage with a tiger. That’s what going to the supermarket felt like, walking into that cage.’

Recent research indicates that men are far less likely to seek help for mental health conditions than women, and are three times more likely to take their own lives.

‘The hardest [part] was I didn’t know when it was going to end or if it ever would,’ Rick says. ‘I didn’t want to be here, and to think that was going to last forever…if you lose hope that’s going to lead to tragedy.’

Rick Foster
Rick Foster is a speaker for Beyond Blue
Rick Foster
'I took up cycling and kyaking in a big way'

Rick made the decision to step away from work for eight months and received intensive medical help. He says he had ‘nothing but compassion’ from telling his clients why he would be absent, which is a big reason why he is so open about his journey to this day.

As he slowly began to recover and could feel his old self coming back, Rick made changes to his everyday routine, ensuring he exercised daily, took up activities that interested him, such as learning to play the guitar, and only returned to work part-time. ‘Not everyone can do that. I’m lucky I have my own business, but that helped with my adjustment.’

Being a long-term business owner means Rick understands the pressures that go with the day-to-day management of clients, staff and maintaining a turnover that many in the home building industry also experience. He encourages others who are struggling to ‘manage the stress as opposed to trying to eliminate it’, especially if they’re not in a position to scale back as he was.

‘Find out what is an outlet. That might be exercising, watching a footy game, drawing or even doing a crossword puzzle. It’s so important to have downtime, and downtime away from what is causing your stress.’

‘If I had to describe the anxiety, it’d be like getting put in a cage with a tiger’

Rick says that while he has a supportive circle of family and friends, becoming more involved in his local community has been hugely beneficial to his wellbeing.

‘I took up cycling and kayaking in a big way, and I’m now vice president of my local kayak club. Sharing in that sense of community and common interest helped me enormously.’

Volunteering has also been a positive addition to his lifestyle.

‘The great thing is when I go to speak about Beyond Blue I’m doing it for other people to help them. I feel like I’m giving back to society and I get respect and thanks for it, which I love,’ Rick says. ‘The studies prove that people are happier when they volunteer and I completely agree.

‘The problem with depression and anxiety is you’re inwardly looking. You’re measuring how you feel almost minute to minute…everything is going around your mind constantly and it’s so tiring.

‘What you’ve got to do is reverse that and look outwards. Volunteering helps me do that.’

For support and further information go to beyondblue.org.au or call 1300 22 4636.

Visit the Beyond Blue Forums for advice and support from people with similar experiences.

Men talking


Since 2014 the HIA Charitable Foundation (HIACF) and Beyond Blue’s partnership has led to the creation of a number of programs and initiatives. HIACF’s funding contributed to Beyond Blue’s national suicide prevention research. This research was the basis for a recent sector-wide suicide prevention campaign, #YouCanTalk.

The #YouCanTalk campaign saw Australia’s leading suicide prevention groups join forces to support and equip Australians to know the warning signs and to have open conversations about suicide with people they are concerned about. If you’ve noticed that a friend or loved one hasn’t been themselves lately, is avoiding social situations, seems low or flat, or you just suspect something isn’t right, simply letting them know you care can make a huge difference.

For more information, visit www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/suicide-prevention

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