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Former ABC broadcaster Barry Nicholls releases latest book on men and mental health

Barry Nicholls pictured holding a cricket bat when he played with David Hookes and John Inverarity (back row) and played against Tonbridge at Adelaide Oval. Photos supplied.
Barry Nicholls pictured holding a cricket bat when he played with David Hookes and John Inverarity (back row) and played against Tonbridge at Adelaide Oval. Photos supplied.

Barry Nicholls says the years 2014-2016 were like "a Greg Chappell moment" for him.

However, it isn't some glorious moment of Chappell's illustrious cricket career that might spring to mind for most.

Mr Nicholls said it is when Chappell went out for a duck four times in a row.

The Busselton resident and author uses cricket as an underlying theme and way to explain his mental health issues in his latest book 'Second Innings: on men, mental health and cricket'.

Mr Nicholls is also a journalist and worked as a radio presenter for ABC for nearly 20 years.

Those two years for Mr Nicholls' was when he thought life threw everything it could at him, and he realised he wasn't coping.

It should have been a happy time for Mr Nicholls as he was writing books, hosting a radio show and being a parent to four young children.

However, he found himself commuting from Busselton to Bunbury for work and then to Perth on the weekends to see his wife and children.

His wife and children moved to Perth to allow the children to get a private school education.

"I found I had taken on too much," he said.

"It is a real lesson in how quickly things can turn, particularly if you're overdoing it a bit."

Mr Nicholls took six weeks off work and admitted he thought he was 'done'.

He was so wired that he couldn't sleep properly.

"Between 2014-2016 I never came down [from anxiety] so it was very taxing and you can't mentally switch off," he said.

He said he was fortunate to have a great GP who told him "we need to cool your brain down".

Mr Nicholls was referred to a psychologist and said the two doctors were very "compassionate and decent people".

In order to write his memoir, Mr Nicholls found himself finding more about his family and genetic predecessors.

He pairs his family past with his childhood and the two-year period which he wasn't sure he was going to survive.

Mr Nicholls grew up in South Australia in the 1970s. He was one of four siblings with his eldest brother being diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1985.

He said his parents "had a tumultuous marriage" and would argue a lot.

Barry Nicholls as child out the front of the family home in South Australia.

Barry Nicholls as child out the front of the family home in South Australia.

It wasn't until Gough Whitlam that introduced a 'no fault' law to marriage in 1975 which allowed couples to divorce without having to prove infidelity.

The combination meant Mr Nicholls had a tough time growing up but pushed through and it ultimately caught up with him.

It took Mr Nicholls years to write this book and it wasn't until his father passed away that it all started coming together for him.

He said his father had a lot of archives about the family, including how both of his grandfathers were in WWI and were heavily traumatised when they returned home.

It was a confronting book to write as Mr Nicholls uncovered a potential genetic predisposition to mental health issues stemming from his grandfathers on either side of his parents family.

Mr Nicholls retold how one of his ancestors was a train driver and a few months before his retirement, the train hit a child on a bicycle which killed him.

"That was start of his end I think," Mr Nicholls said.

He said the book was a way for him to provide his own children with a kind of roadmap for the future

"A way for them to keep themselves healthy by learning about their ancestors' struggles," Mr Nicholls said.

"It's a story about a passion for cricket and how friendships gained along the way also have been crucial in dealing with what life sometimes throws at you."

What Mr Nicholls experienced in 2014-2016 allowed him to become a stronger person and understand when he needed to reach out for help.

Sport was a constant for Barry growing up, he pictured with his football jumper.

Sport was a constant for Barry growing up, he pictured with his football jumper.

It put him in good stead as at the start of 2021, he was faced with another set of challenges with his mother passing away, separation from his wife and leaving the ABC.

"Everyone is vulnerable to a rough patch," he said after describing the recent events as experiencing a 'trifecta'.

To end the book, Mr Nicholls reflects back on what Chappell and cricket helped him discover - "in life there is always a second innings".

If any content in this story raises issues, contact:

  • Lifeline 13 11 14
  • Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636
  • MensLine 1300 78 99 78
This story 'Everyone's vulnerable to a rough patch': Former journalist writes book on mental health first appeared on Busselton-Dunsborough Mail.