Breaking through

Anxiety and depression don’t always develop in line with, or because of, a mental health crisis or break down.


Sarah O'Donovan

Stories about mental health often detail the lives of those who lose work because they can’t get themselves out of bed in the mornings, or who find themselves paralysed by fear in the crowded car park when trying to do their weekly grocery shop. But these cases aren’t necessarily typical.

For some individuals the symptoms are immediate and extreme, while others experience a change that is gradual and seemingly without cause. Although everyone’s case is different, one thing is certain: mental health disorders don’t always look the way you might expect. 

Perhaps making a standard phone call suddenly gives you butterflies in your stomach, or you notice an unusual heavy feeling in your chest that doesn’t seem to budge. These and other feelings might not be interfering with your usual routine or sound very serious, but they can serve as useful, physical indicators of stress and as a sign that you need to speak to a doctor about what is causing them. 

Just like you don’t need a fatal illness or injury to go to the hospital for treatment, you don’t need to be in the midst of a crisis to speak to your doctor. 


It can be a difficult and time-consuming process to find a doctor and treatment plan that works best for you, but it’s an essential step that will allow you to address and manage the symptoms. 

One person who knows this all too well is Robran Cock, an engineer working in the South Australian water industry, who suffered from social anxiety that became so severe it made him physically sick.

‘I had seen a few different doctors and not received any real help. One of my most frustrating symptoms was feeling unwell after eating socially, so I was told by doctors that I either ate too much or ate too fast,’ he says. 

Dealing with this meant he began avoiding activities such as concerts, sporting events and dinners with friends, but he was otherwise living a fairly normal life. 

‘I was still working and doing everything you would expect, but internally I was anxious and felt on edge a lot. It was a struggle to go day-to-day and look too far into the future,’ Robran says. 

‘Then one day I went through the symptoms with a different doctor and he diagnosed me with depression and anxiety, and we spoke about a recovery plan.’

‘It was a struggle to go day-to-day and look too far into the future’ Robran says

He adds that he had no problems coming to terms with the diagnosis, instead recalling a sense of optimism. ‘I still remember sitting in the doctor’s office and being diagnosed, and it felt like one of the key moments in my life because it marked the point where recovery started,’ Robran says.

Now that he had a recovery plan, which included both medication and sessions with a psychologist to undertake cognitive behavioural therapy, Robran was able to start adjusting and implementing the changes he needed to make. 

‘It was important to understand what triggers were for me and how to manage different situations. Paying closer attention to moods and reactions to stimuli became important, and made life a lot better.’

In addition to this, Robran started to work on strengthening the area of his life which had been most neglected because of his anxiety: his friends. 

‘Having a social network is important to foster relationships and have someone to talk to, should you need it,’ he says. ‘Maintaining contact with friends is important and having a common interest like a hobby helps with this.’

And more recently, he discovered the benefit of physical activities, saying ‘it helps so much to be active and stay healthy, and relaxation exercises like meditation can assist in calming your mind’.

Now a Beyond Blue speaker, Robran shares his story with other Australians to help raise awareness about mental health.

‘In 2016 I was a participant in a community leadership program and as part of that we did some work on men’s mental health in regional towns. Once that finished I wanted to continue the work and I came across the Beyond Blue speaker program while researching how I could get involved.’

He says that, while his day-to-day life isn’t particularly different now, he is able to tackle almost any situation without being held back by anxiety: ‘it has taken work and ongoing management but it is well worth the effort.’  


Robran talks recovery

‘If you want to talk through your concerns there are phone lines and internet support programs by organisations like Beyond Blue,’ says Robran Cock, engineer and Beyond Blue speaker.

‘Finding a GP that you respect and trust and being open with them is important. Your doctor will ask a number of questions about your state of mind to make an assessment. They can then discuss a long-term recovery plan with you that might involve medication, counselling or other treatments, depending on what they think you need.

‘Trying to internally assess if your reaction to a particular scenario is appropriate or not can be developed in time. Eventually you learn how to manage your mental illness and can spot problems as they come along.’

For more information visit or call 1300 22 46 36.

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