Mental health issues and cancer have some striking similarities.

From my own experience (including my brother's death from depression in 1999), they can both be stealthy, sneaking up on someone without any major symptoms, before grabbing them by the throat and dropping them to the ground.

A very high percentage of those who live with cancer or the ominous threat of its return, suffer from depression.

Wealth or celebrity provides no cloak of immunity to these illnesses.


It's very likely that some of your best friends will experience them and both of them can kill you.

Doctor Erin Eggleston is a local mountain biker and director of clinical psychology at QE Health Wellness and Spa in Rotorua.

He describes clinical depression as: "someone who's depressed, down, sad most of the day, nearly every day, and has lost pleasure in life most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks, but more likely several months."

If this sounds like you or someone you know, it really is time to get some help.

"If we can assist with treating clinical depression, we can make a difference in the prevention of suicide," Dr Eggleston says.

In 2017, the Rotorua Mountain Bikers Ball raised more than $25,000 to help Suicide Prevention and Concussion Awareness.

Erin suggested some of the money could cover the cost of psychological consultations for those in most need, without the resources to pay.

"Susan Brown, from the ball committee, presented the idea to them and they donated $10,000," he says.


"She administered the funds until QE Health took over as custodian with every dollar going to three, face to face sessions, with individual psychologists providing a follow-up session, themselves, in their own time."

The Rotorua Singlespeed Society recently topped up the fund by $4000, part of the money raised by the Singlespeed World Championships last November.

"The goal is to impact on suicide rates," Eggleston says.

"Raising awareness around mental health is good. Destigmatisation work is good. Support and talking and referring to the right service are good. But none are a treatment for depression. Psychology and medicine, as needed, are the best treatments for depression."

Rotorua health professionals can refer people to the programme or they can also self-refer, by calling QE Health's Psychology Administrator, Judy Savage, on 349 5255 or email her at (Judy's a friend of mine. She'll treat any call with kindness and compassion).

"Like the Mountain Biker's Ball, we're well-supported by our community, through local businesses and Rotorua Lakes Council as well as First Sovereign, Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust and New Zealand Community Trust," says Paul Laing from the Singlespeed Society.


"It's great to give back to a fund that's open to anyone needing it, not just mountain bikers."

Something else that cancer and mental health issues share is that, while exercise isn't a cure, it can help both. A blast in the forest, lungfuls of air and a body full of endorphins can put a whole different perspective on the world.

If not, seek 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
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (Mon-Fri 1pm to 10pm. Sat-Sun 3pm-10pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
• Samaritans 0800 726 666