John Armstrong

John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

Brash: I considered ending my life

Don Brash dealt with his low points by working hard. Photo / Greg Bowker
Don Brash dealt with his low points by working hard. Photo / Greg Bowker

Former Reserve Bank governor Don Brash considered taking his own life "to end the pain" following the failure of his two marriages.

In his autobiography Incredible Luck published today, the man who led the National Party for three years says the end of both his marriages had been "hugely painful" - and in both cases had led him "to the point of contemplating suicide".

In a warts-and-all chapter covering his personal life, Dr Brash tackles head-on his reputation for being a womaniser. But beyond arguing that men have an "extremely powerful biological urge to have sex", he struggles to explain why he had extra-marital affairs which ultimately took a huge toll on his personal life and plunged him into a deep trough of depression.

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Acknowledging an "occasional" breaking of his marriage vows, the 73-year-old says he has not had a large number of sexual partners - and none at all before his first marriage.

"But I have no choice than to admit that the number exceeds the number of women I was married to."

Dr Brash married his first wife, Erica, in 1964. His marriage broke up after he and his Singaporean secretary, Je Lan Lee, began a relationship.

Following his divorce from Erica Brash, the pair married. His second marriage collapsed following his highly publicised affair with Diane Foreman, the then deputy chairwoman of the Business Roundtable - a relationship which resulted in MPs in the National caucus rounding on their leader over his private life.

Dr Brash rejects as "totally and utterly untrue" rumours that his emails were leaked to political opponents by an unnamed "attractive" member of his parliamentary staff who was angry with him after he ended a relationship with her.

He says he has never had any kind of relationship with that person - or anyone else in the parliamentary complex for that matter.

In an interview with the Herald, Dr Brash said that while he had thought about committing suicide, he had not attempted to do so. He had been "very depressed" after both his marriages ended. "I was at a pretty low point."

As a self-confessed workaholic, he dealt with the depression that followed his first marital break-up by immersing himself in his role as managing director of the Kiwifruit Authority and subsequently as chief executive of the merged Trustbank.

By the time he married his second wife, he was back on "a pretty even keel" mentally.

He said leaving her was the worst decision of his life "because I was then and still am in love with the woman".

He reveals that when he told his mother, who believed marriage should be until death do us part, that he planned to marry for a second time, she swore she never wanted to meet Je Lan.

Dr Brash writes that adultery was certainly not part of his Christian upbringing, but argues "that the great majority of human males are programmed to find women sexually attractive".

He realised, of course, that some men were gay. "I have never suspected, even for a single moment, that I might be gay."


Where to get help:


Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)

Youth services: (06) 3555 906

Youthline: 0800 376 633

Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (4pm to 6pm weekdays)

Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (noon to midnight)

The Word

Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

CASPER Suicide Prevention

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

- NZ Herald

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