COMMENT: He was gbo and I was dhi on our antiquated computer system in the days before email. We worked (and partied) as young journalists at upstart radio network IRN.
Those times are a bit of a blur. I do remember one party at John Tulloch's house with a giant elephant in the backyard, and Cindy wearing the shiny blue lycra pants Sharon O'Neill had worn in the video for Maxine and me having deep and meaningfuls with Greg wearing a pith helmet (it was an Out Of Africa theme).
But the main thing I remember about Greg was how he could be all hard-nosed when required, but when the microphone went off, he would often deliver a devastating one-liner that revealed there was another Greg who had been standing back and observing – who could name the sub-text of what was really going on.
He was an extremely funny man. At the time I remember thinking it was a shame that only those of us in the newsroom got to see that side of Greg.
It is even more sad that we have lost him forever.
It has been powerful to see the reaction to Greg's death. There has been a willingness to make space, gently and compassionately, for discussions on mental health on behalf of Greg. That has made me proud of the journalistic community.
There seems to be a growing awareness that someone's private, personal reality may be quite different from their private psychic world. That may be the tragic gift that Greg has left us.
A lot of what has been said has been valuable and in writing this I wondered whether we needed any more commentary about it. But here are some thoughts.
1. Depression is not caused by "demons". We do have some understanding of what may lead someone to a crisis. Romanticising this process as battling demons is unhelpful. Similarly, suggesting that you can triumph over depression by exercising: You can't process trauma on your own and although exercise is always helpful self-care, it is not enough.
2. Are we giving enough support to people who in the course of their job have to assume a public persona, and deal with the online bile that seems to go with that? I worried about Greg when he was on the newly-launched iteration of Seven Sharp. The show was brutally vilified and I knew how painful that kind of public flailing can be. My editors at the Herald have always checked in with me when I write a column that causes a backlash. But I'm not sure it is the same for everyone.
3. We are telling each other that it's okay to reach out, to talk about our suffering. But at the same time we have an entrenched "harden up" culture. This can be crazymaking. You're being invited to share your vulnerability, but at the same time castigated for not being staunch. On the day when we heard about Greg's death one commentator was criticising sportspeople for their "softness" because they dared to speak out about bullying behaviour. See the inconsistency?
4. Reach out, reach out, reach out, we say. But it can be dangerous to encourage people to drop their defences all at once. My own therapist has told me now how she had to guide me in approaching trauma, until I had enough ego strength to bear it. Underneath the depression can be the kind of rage which is deadly if it is brought to conscious awareness too abruptly. Trauma specialist Peter Levine talks about this as waking the tiger. "It is not a perception, belief, or a trick of the imagination. It is real."
5. How many times does the Herald run the contact details for Lifeline and support services in its pages these days? I'm guessing it is much more frequently than, say, 10 years ago. They are probably at the bottom of this article, in fact. This is a good thing, but do those services get the proportionate amount more funding? And after someone has "reached out" is there funding for their ongoing support? Funding for counselling and therapy – and respect for those professions – does not seem to have kept pace with our culture's growing awakening about mental health.
6. On Wednesday I was at a meeting of our university psychotherapy community (I am studying psychotherapy) where we talked, again, about four lecturers who left last year and how much they are missed. They have not been replaced. I don't know whether this is due to funding constraints. But I do know that this is the only place where you can train to be a psychotherapist in New Zealand, and we are a very small group.
And yes, I am not ashamed to say I'm on a bit of a mission to get other people, who need it, into therapy, because therapy literally saved my life. When you are in the black hole of depression, there are many people who will try and throw you a rope. But that is not enough. What you need is someone who is able to get down in the hole with you.
And then very slowly, very gently, you both build a ladder and you climb out. You'll wish like hell you could do this faster, someone else could do it for you, that you didn't keep falling back a few rungs and then have to start again. But this is the work. And some of us do make it out. I just wish that clever, witty man Greg was one of them.
Where to get help:
If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.
Or if you need to talk to someone else:
• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
• Samaritans 0800 726 666
• Rural Support Trust: 0800 787 254.