EXCLUSIVE

Mental health: Northern beaches' Gus Worland shares the heartbreak behind Gotcha4Life

START TALKING: Radio funny guy, Gotcha4Life founder and northern beaches local, Gus Worland, is urging guys to stop
START TALKING: Radio funny guy, Gotcha4Life founder and northern beaches local, Gus Worland, is urging guys to stop "manning up". Picture: Simon Bennett

IT'S the man's job to just man up and get on with it. Don't be a sook and don't bring the team down and just get on with stuff. Everyone's dealing with stuff, why shouldn't you be able to deal with it?"

It's this stereotype about how boys and men 'should' act that keeps Elanora man Gus Worland up at night.

In the past five years, 79 boys and men have died by suicide in the northern beaches. Suicide is the 12th most common way for a male to die in the local government area.

Nationally, it's the ninth most common way for males to die; of the 3318 suicides in Australia during 2019, 75 per cent (2488 people) were male. Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians between the ages of 15 and 44.

Worland might be well known as one of Triple M's Dead Set Legends (and formally The Grill Team) but he's also a driving force in men's mental health, or mental fitness as he calls it, through his charity Gotcha4Life.

Recently in Avalon, Gotcha4Life organised a 'night with the blokes' and 256 people turned up - from a 16-year-old to a 76-year-old.

It's blokes just sitting down saying 'I feel this way, I can't talk to my kids, my wife and I aren't quite connecting any more, my mum and dad are away and I'm now the boss and I don't know quite how to deal with that'.

"It was literally blokes just sitting down saying 'I feel this way, I can't talk to my kids, my wife and I aren't quite connecting any more, my mum and dad are away and I'm now the boss and I don't know quite how to deal with that'," Worland said.

"The problem we've got is we think that we're the only ones who've got these problems and you know what, if you start talking to someone else you're a whinger aren't you; and someone who just can't handle their own shit. Well I'm sorry we can't handle our own shit, so lets get in there together and be part of one dysfunctional family."

Gotcha4Life's ultimate goal is zero suicides, but in the meantime it's also encouraging men to talk about what's really going on.

"We need to learn how to bumble through that first conversation of gravity, away from banter. A bloke goes 'you know what, this is not just talking about the footy and weather and work, this is actually something real. I love this guy and I want to help him'. That's where we need to get to, turning mates into friends is the real key."

Worland knows only too well what it's like to bottle things up and admits it took him years to start talking about the suicide of his friend Angus Roberts, aged 53 and married to Worland's cousin.

"I was just living in this bubble of there's no way a guy like Angus [would suicide], who ticked all the boxes - wife, three children, good job, living in a nice area - he seemed to have it all," he said.

Gus Worland. Picture: Simon Bennett

Gus Worland. Picture: Simon Bennett

For eight years after Roberts' death Worland kept silent. He didn't speak about his anger, grief, confusion and all the answered questions about why he and others had no idea their mate was suffering. Each year on the anniversary of Roberts' death, Worland would shout and scream at his dead mate about the heartbreak that had been left.

Then one day Worland, who at the time was on-air with The Grill Team, finally spoke about the heartbreak, and by chance a woman looking to do a documentary on male suicide and what it takes to be a man today was listening.

"She rang me and said 'would you like to host this show' and it was Man Upand it changed my life," Worland said.

The three-part ABC series aired in late 2016 and it inspired Worland to create Gotcha4Life to help others just like him.

If you're lonely you're more likely to make these poor decisions.

"What Gotcha4Life and I are trying to do is normalise that conversation," he said. "I want everyone in Australia to have someone who has got them for life, not got them for this job or got them for this weekend, or got them this year. Someone who you can have that warts and all conversation with, with no judgement and they're going to love you because I truly believe suicide is the death of loneliness.

"If you're lonely you're more likely to make these poor decisions, let's man up, speak up and find that one person whose got you for life so you're never alone.

Presenting at a Gotcha4Life event with Australian cricketer Steve Smith.

Presenting at a Gotcha4Life event with Australian cricketer Steve Smith.

"You've got to have someone in your life where you can go 'you know what, I've been bullshitting everyone for years, this is how I truly feel'. That can be a professional, that can be a family member, if it's your partner then you've absolutely won the jackpot, but not many blokes have got a partner they can be totally honest with."

So far Worland's charity has raised nearly $5 million and the funds are directed to groups that work in suicide prevention.

"There's too much money thrown at the crisis area, too much money thrown where the problem is already a massive problem," he said.

"We should be working on prevention through education, at schools and workshops and corporations, that to me makes a lot of sense.

"Blokes are sponges we want to learn stuff, we want to be better dads, we want to better sons, we want to be better lovers, we want to be better everything."

Just try texting this

Everyone has 'that' person in their mobile phone. It's the person you haven't spoken to in months, but it you saw them down the street you'd hug and, depending on the time of day, have a coffee or a wine with them. And, you'd go away thinking "why don't I talk to them more often".

Worland's plea to you is, grab your phone, look up that person's number right now. "Send this message to them: 'I love you' and it's l-o-v-e, no emoji, none of that bullshit, 'I miss you, see you soon' and send it without thinking about it," he said. Then, turn on your notifications and just wait for the "beep, beep back and you'll get one of three responses: Are you drunk? Was that for me? Or I love you to buddy, it's been too long".

Worland urged people to make those connections, even in this simple way. "Put it in your calendar, once-a-week" and send that text.

Need to talk?

  • Find out more about Gotcha4Life by visiting www.gotcha4life.org.
  • In a crisis call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Best mates with a Hollywood icon

BEST MATES: Hugh Jackman and Gus Worland have known each other since kindergarten. They're pictured together after Gus competed in the New York Marathon in 2014.

BEST MATES: Hugh Jackman and Gus Worland have known each other since kindergarten. They're pictured together after Gus competed in the New York Marathon in 2014.

Worland and Hollywood legend Hugh Jackman first met when they were just five years old. "We've been best mates since kindergarten, we met at Pymble Public School back in 1974 on the first day of school and I've just loved him ever since," he said.

"We were the best man at each other's wedding, he's godfather to Jack and I'm godfather to Oscar [Jackman and wife Deborra-Lee Furness' son]," he said. "We speak every Saturday morning on the way to Dead Set Legends, we've just made that commitment to each other that we'll always speak once a week for a good chunk of time."

Their friendship is so strong that Jackman also sits on the board for Gotcha4Life and regularly helps Worland promote mental health and the charity to his 29.5 million Instagram followers.

BEST MATES: Hugh Jackman and Gus Worland have known each other since kindergarten.

BEST MATES: Hugh Jackman and Gus Worland have known each other since kindergarten.

In a post-interview chat, Worland told the Northern Beaches Review that being best mates with Jackman can lead to some pretty amazing experiences with some pretty amazing people.

There was that time actor George Clooney and Worland chatted over a shared love of whisky. Another time the best mates were at Nicole Kidman's 40th birthday on a boat on Sydney Harbour and the singer entertaining them for the night was none other than Sting.

Worland laughs a lot when telling stories of his Hollywood close encounters, but says Jackman's still the same fun person he went to school with all those years ago. "To me he's just Jacko and he's not anything super special, but he is super special because he's my longest, best mate," Worland said.

Taking time away from Gotcha4Life

When not running his charity or having on-air banter with fellow Dead Set Legends Wendell Sailor and Dude Bolton each week, he's husband to Vicky and father to Jack 21, Ella 19, Abi 17.

Gus and Vicky Worland with their children, Jack, 21, Abi, 17, and Ella, 19.

Gus and Vicky Worland with their children, Jack, 21, Abi, 17, and Ella, 19.

He's recently discovered a love of the gym and has managed to shave 30 kilograms off with a mix of work outs, walks with mates and a bit of health eating. "There's a real hand-in-hand link between mental fitness and physical fitness," he said.

Worland also does a little work for the House of Wellness on Channel Seven and has a weekly chat about life and "other stuff" with former Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten on the Today show.

"That just gives me that balance that I need to be able to do the work that I do because it's not easy. It's extremely emotional and there are times when I find it very, very hard," he said.

Northern beaches sweet spots

Worland and his family have lived in the same house in Elanora since the year 2000 and he says the best thing about living in the northern beaches is one of life's simple pleasures.

"The thing I tell everyone is that you can go to the shops with no shoes and no one bats an eyelid and I love it," he said.

"I love that I can go out at anytime, no one's ever going to bother you and if they do it's 'G'day mate, how you doing, love what you're doing?' or 'I loved what you did this morning on the show. There's a real positive vibe around Gotcha4Life and about what we're doing."

FRESH AIR

Regular walks along Collaroy Beach to Long Reef Headland with mates to check in on them.

COFFEE

Stay Grounded, Collaroy

FOOD AND DRINKS

"We go to Kaiser Stub'n in Terrey Hills, it's so good."

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