David Sharaz reveals personal battles as he urges others to ask RU OK?
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David Sharaz reveals personal battles as he urges others to ask RU OK?

Anyone who has heard David Sharaz read the news at breakfast on MIX 106.3 or watched his campaign for Rhonda the rock wallaby to be the ACT's official mammal will get at least a hint he is professional, driven and funny.

But the 27-year-old journalist has battled some demons - depression, anxiety and even a deep self-loathing he tried to numb with alcohol and medication.

Journalist David Sharaz, who is talking about his mental health  battles for R U OK? Day on September 13.

Journalist David Sharaz, who is talking about his mental health battles for R U OK? Day on September 13.Credit:Jamila Toderas

He has decided now to talk about those struggles, as he feels acceptance finally. Because, as R U OK? Day approaches on September 13, a day to promote suicide prevention, helping those who may have a tenuous hold on life is a priority for him. He wants them to know someone understands and cares.

"I feel if people hear me on the radio or see my social media stuff they might think, 'Oh, he's got it altogether'. But everyone has their own demons.

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"If I can help even one person by showing them, 'No, it's OK to talk about your problems', I will.

"We shouldn't be ashamed to talk about the bad times because nothing in life is perfect.''

David says after he married earlier this year, he finally realised "I'm comfortable with the person I am".

"We spend so much of our youth trying to be the same until you realise, it's the people who are different who are actually the most interesting."

David Sharaz with his adoptive parents Jean and Mo.

David Sharaz with his adoptive parents Jean and Mo.

David was born in Wrexham, north Wales, and adopted when he was a few months old. His adoptive mother Jean and husband Mo had adopted two other children. He has asked his birth mother via letters and social media why she gave him up, and she has told him she wanted him to go into a stable family with brothers and sisters.

His adoptive dad, who was of Indian heritage, did not want to adopt a third child, but his adoptive mother, who was Welsh, put forward an interesting scenario.

"He sort of put it out there like it was never going to happen, 'If we can find a baby with a bit of Indian in him and he is Welsh, then sure, we can adopt'," David said.

Within a month, "they got a call to say I was in stock and they adopted me".

So David, who was born to a Welsh mother and a father of Indian heritage, ended up with an adoptive Welsh mum and an adoptive dad of Indian heritage.

David Sharaz and Alexandra Craig - and their cats! - on their wedding day in Canberra in March this year.

David Sharaz and Alexandra Craig - and their cats! - on their wedding day in Canberra in March this year.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Despite the love of his new family, David said being adopted probably contributed to some of his mental health issues.

"It's no secret that adoptive children suffer from identity issues and things like that and my parents were always supportive of seeking help from psychologists when the time came and, obviously the time did come," he said.

Every day is a challenge.

"Every morning while I’m at work my phone goes off with a text message from my wife. Usually it’s around 7am, and three words pop up on the screen: are you okay?," he said.

"It may seem simple enough, but it’s taken us five years to get to this point. It’s now routine. If I’m not doing too well, I’ve promised to always tell her.

"For a long time I was far from OK. In fact, I hated myself.''

David Sharaz, who says he has learnt that the people who are different are actually the most interesting.

David Sharaz, who says he has learnt that the people who are different are actually the most interesting.Credit:Jamila Toderas

About 10 years ago, David's inner turmoil revealed itself as an eating disorder.

"I thought by losing a whole bunch of weight I’d like myself. Nope," he said. "Dropping down to 65 kilograms didn’t work, so I turned to alcohol to numb the pain. It was easy to disguise. I mean, I was at university and everyone around me was drinking."

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A beer, or two, before class calmed his nerves. Then it became every day.

"For some reason I’d convinced myself that not only did I hate myself, but even complete strangers had cottoned on, and were passing judgement on everything I did.

"From the way I walked, to how I stood on the street waiting for the bus, I was certain the world hated me, nearly as much as I loathed myself.

"Before too long, I realised the best way to protect myself was by not leaving the house at all. I’d be able to fake it for three or four hours a day, smiling and joking, but for the most part I’d just sit inside, curtains drawn, crying for hours. I hoped the internal pain would go away. A friend saw the signs, and convinced me to see someone."

Six years ago, he hit rock bottom, after years of failed attempts on anti-depressants

"I decided there was a solution: I’d have one last night with my friends and quietly disappear. I downed an entire bottle of cheap scotch and went for a walk," he said.

"I don’t remember much from that night but I’m forever grateful that incredibly important people in my life saw the signs and called for help. Without them I wouldn’t be here today."

A younger David Sharaz with his dad Mo - his best friend.

A younger David Sharaz with his dad Mo - his best friend.

David suffered another tragic setback this year with his father's sudden death from a stroke in February, just two weeks before his wedding in Canberra to political staffer Alexandra Craig.

"I'd been off medications for a little while, I've gone back on because I started to feel that loss. I'm very close to women and I don't have a lot of male friends, for some reason, and I've realised my father was probably the only male friend that I had,"he said.

"I think I'd 'forgotten' he'd died. I was driving one day and saw an ambulance speed past and I just had to pull over and burst into tears. That was the catalyst for me really spiralling down into depression again.

"There was an incident where my wife got home late at night after the gym and I wasn't home and I'd just gone for a five kilometre walk and ended up in the middle of nowhere and she had to come get me.''

Alexandra and David are obviously a strong couple, both intelligent, quirky and funny (though, as much as he hates to admit it, she's funnier.)

"I've had depression for so long that when we started dating, I told her the anti-depressants were heart medication, I was embarrassed about it,"he said.

"I feel like even five years ago, there was a stigma around depression and I didn't want her to know I was going through that and maybe it would turn her off.

"But it had the opposite effect. Even in my darkest moments, she can see the light. It takes a really strong person to live with someone with depression and I'm glad she stuck around.''

Journalist David Sharaz has worked for WIN News, SBS World News and now Mix 106.3.

Journalist David Sharaz has worked for WIN News, SBS World News and now Mix 106.3.

David says RU OK? Day is a reminder to gently start a conversation with someone who appears out of sorts, not themselves, and encourage them to open up. It's a gateway to perhaps helping someone avoid taking their own life.

"Mental heath needs to be talked about. We need more of a focus on an illness which claims close to 3000 of our friends, brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers ever year," David said.

"Too often it is overlooked and ignored. Depression isn’t just feeling sad or a little blue. It's an illness and the end result can be fatal. Unlike a broken leg, however, it’s not easily spotted.''

"An estimated three million Australians are living in pain and many are afraid, or embarrassed, to talk about what they’re going through.

"I’m here to tell you that you need not be. Depression is like being trapped in a dark room but please believe me when I tell you that eventually light will always find its way in.

"Sometimes you just need someone to ask: RU OK?''

  • If you need help, call Lifeline on 13 11 14, ruok.org.au