Mental health heartache
Described by his family as a kind soul who'd do anything for anyone, good fun, quick-witted, sarcastic at times and very sporty, Mark O’Rorke at just 23-years-of-age wasn’t meant to go that way.
His mother Janet. father John, twin brother Chris, sister Leanne, and extended family and friends were left broken when he lost his battle with depression in May last year.
So widely loved, the funeral at Barker College chapel was ﬁlled to the brim with mourners trying to make sense of the unimaginable. Everyone still is.
"Sometimes it doesn’t feel real, still doesn't feel real" Chris conﬁdes to North Shore Living.
He can still recall the weekend prior - he and Mark had attended a barbecue on Friday, and then played tennis and celebrated a friend's birthday in Manly on the Saturday.
On the surface everything seemed normal. "When he was out he was ﬁne, you never would have known [he was suffering from depression]. none of our mates knew,” explains Chris.
"That’s the spooky thing nobody knew except us and that wasn't until after he told us,” adds John.
"In 2013, he'd been to see a doctor friend of ours about shoulder pains and then out of the blue she called Janet and said ’I’m worried about Mark he's got all the classic signs of depression',” John continues.
"So that knocked us, and then we confronted him and eventually he accepted that he hadn’t been feeling good with himself. He didn't really go into a lot of detail he has always been the more quiet and reserved of the boys. But anyway we got him to see a therapist to get some counselling.
"He did about six sessions with her and she was amazed by his turn around and signed him off - put it down to more of a social anxiety."
Even his family were unaware of the extent of his inner struggle.
"We later found out that apparently he had depression since he left Barker, which was a real shock because you just don't know how you can miss it, or how people can hide it that well for that long,” John says.
“Before that, all we knew from our perspective was that he didn't seem to want to get a job or know what job he wanted to get, so the depression side didn't really come into it until he was diagnosed by the doctor and admitted to feeling that way."
Chris nods. "Obviously with the counsellor that he saw he put it on pretty well, he was obviously good at hiding it with us so he did the same to her."
Mark left a couple of letters behind to his family, stating his love and saying by the time he wanted to do something about his depression it was just too late.
"Some of the details in the letters were pretty scary, saying ever since school ﬁnished it was just a downhill spiral, things like ’I let it get too bad'," Chris reveals.
"He said he had these bad thoughts and he couldn't get rid of them and he’d been thinking about doing this for quite a while."
Incredibly, even in his ﬁnal moments he was thinking about helping others.
"Our mate Nick was already doing the City2Surf and on the Sunday, Mark made a bet that he would be able to beat him, obviously knowing he wasn't going to do it. But in the letter he wrote ’Maybe you guys can do the City2Surf and raise some money for beyondblue‘, so that’s what we did.”
The O'Rorkes and a large group of friends recently completed the City28urf for the second time, and have raised more than $30,000 for beyondblue.
Mark’s sister Leanne brought her family's story to North Shore Living she wants to see something positive come from the suffering they continue to endure.
“I have had so many people contact me and share their stories about how they struggle with depression or anxiety or other various mental health issues. They are people that I would never have expected to struggle, people that seemed so secure and happy to me. I want to share our story because people need to be aware that this is happening all around us,” she says.
"I don't want other people to go through what my family and l have been through. If sharing our story and talking about mental health issues encourages just one person to seek help, then I feel like we have made a difference."
beyondblue CEO, Georgie Harman, is full of admiration for the O'Rorkes and cannot overstate the difference they are making.
"I can't even begin to imagine how hard that must be [to open up about their story] but the fact that they’ve agreed to do this, they almost don’t have any idea about what an impact that's going to have on so many other families who might ﬁnd themselves in a similar situation and get some kind of hope or even just knowing that someone else is out there and they’re not alone,” she tells North Shore Living.
"Obviously here's one family who have experienced something completely unimaginable and extremely tragic and out of that they've got together and they’ve kept their family together and they've raised over $30,000 in Mark's memory.
"It will fund at least 600 contacts with our support service, so there are many, many lives that will hopefully start to be turned around as a result of the O'Rorkes' efforts."
Before the end of our chat with John, he makes one ﬁnal plea to all those who may read this.
"The signs are hard to see, it can seem like they've just lost their way. But really look out for them, I mean it's worth every parent with a teenage son or dauhter, to read some of the articles and information on the sites of Lifeline or beyondblue."
So with October being Mental Health Awareness Month, heed John's advice and familiarise yourself with the information on websites such as www.beyondblue.org.au, www.lifeline.org.au and www.blackdoginstitute.org.au. You can also make a donation to beyondblue in Mark's name, via beyondblueinmemoriam.everydayhero.com/au/mark-o-rorke.