Tue, 9 Oct, 2018Jim Mitchell

Rebecca Gibney's heartbreaking confession about her depression battle

Rebecca Gibney's heartbreaking confession about her depression battle

Much-loved actor Rebecca Gibney has spoken candidly about her depression and anxiety, and the poignant turning points in her battle with mental health.

In an interview with Stella magazine, the star of WantedPacked to the Rafters, and The Flying Doctors said that motherhood had a cathartic effect on her.

“Motherhood doesn’t complete you, but being a mother to Zac did help me overcome some of my own issues because all of a sudden it became all about him,” she said of her son, now 14 years old. “I was at a point in my life where I needed that.”

The actor admitted she experienced an “emotional collapse” in her early 30s, experiencing hourly panic attacks (she would even ask to be seated near an exit at the Logie Awards) and agoraphobia. 

She endured a difficult childhood – her father Austin Gibney was an alcoholic who sexually abused her mother Shirley Gibney. While she attempted to confront her issues at the time with a therapist, the star said it became too much.

“I’d built up a library of self-loathing which I covered up with make-up and roles and pretending, but deep down I was dying inside,” she told the magazine. 

“I felt like a failure in my first marriage, I felt a failure as an actor because I was pretending, and I felt like a failure in my friendships because they weren’t real. A lot about me felt fake and I hated it.”

But the Gold Logie winner found a novel way to deal with her frustration – smashing crockery.

“I had all this rage and my therapist encouraged me to go to op shops and get crockery, which I’d go outside and smash on the ground. It’s a relief to get that anger out.”

For the first time, Gibney spoke in detail about one of the hardest days of her life – the day she found herself contemplating suicide. It was a turning point in her ongoing battle with depression.

“I’d been given prescription medication and on this particular day I put it all out on the coffee table and started writing a letter to my mum,” she said. “I got halfway through the letter and thought, ‘She’ll never understand. I can never do that to her.’ I started picturing my brothers and sisters and friends and I thought, ‘If I go through with this it will create way more pain for them than the pain I’m in now.’ I stopped, ripped up the letter and only told my mum years later. She was mortified and sad I didn’t tell her at the time.”

The actor, who now lives in her native New Zealand with her son, and husband Richard Bell, after living in Australia for over 30 years, has found ways to deal with her anxiety, including breathing techniques. She also shares her mental health journey on social media in the hope they will offer hope to those suffering mental illness.

“Perhaps they’ll think, ‘If it can happen to her, maybe I can take that extra breath, maybe I can go to sleep tonight and wake up tomorrow and do something about it’.”

If you are troubled by this article, experiencing a personal crisis or thinking about suicide, you can call the Depression Helpline at 0800 111 757 or visit depression.org.nz.