Life Wellbeing ‘I wasn’t so special’: How Osher Gunsberg learned to live with mental illness

‘I wasn’t so special’: How Osher Gunsberg learned to live with mental illness

Mental Health Day
Osher Gunsberg shares his story about his mental health history to mark World Mental Health Day 2017. Photo: ABC/Elizabeth Alnutt
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Osher Gunsberg is sharing details of his personal history to encourage others to share their stories to stop the isolation of living with mental illness.

After going public with his mental health issues in 2016, Gunsberg credits listening to other people’s stories as an important part of his recovery process.

“One of the things about mental illness is that it can be very isolating and by sharing stories you actually get to realise that you’re not alone,” he said on a special series of the ABC Tall Tales and True podcast to mark World Mental Health Day on October 10.

“And it was in fact only after I started hearing other people’s stories, describing pretty much what I went through, not only that I wasn’t so special, but those people went through it and they’re alright so maybe one day I’ll be alright too.”

Gunsberg says people who openly share their stories are an important part of the education and awareness process.

“These stories illustrate the full gamut of the rollercoaster ride that is the reality of living with mental health challenges but they are so vitally important for all of us,” he said.

“They can be heartbreaking, illuminating, surprising and sometimes even hilarious, and that’s exactly what life is like for people dealing with mental health challenges.”

Downward spiral

As was reported in 2016, Gunsberg says his mental health started to deteriorate while living in the United States in 2014.

After being off medication for nine months, a series of life and professional pressures culminated in Gunsberg having an episode that saw him staggering around the streets of Venice Beach convinced that the world was coming to an end.

A recent heartbreak, a question mark over his continuing contract for the television show The Bachelor and his father being admitted to ICU in Australia was a potent combination for Gunsberg’s equilibrium.

Mental Health Day
Osher Gunsberg is the host of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. Photo: AAP

“All this stress started piling up in my subconscious and was waiting to just explode into my reality,” he said.

The explosion happened one day during his morning run when Gunsberg started suffering visual delusions.

“My brain then went into this hyper alert state trying to make sense of everything, trying to tie together everything I saw back to the thing I was terrified of,” he said.

“What was happening in my brain was utterly utterly horrible.”

Realising he needed to make his way home to safety and fast, Gunsberg turned around and came across one of Venice Beach’s homeless men and says he realised two very frightening things.

“No.1 he was about 10 years younger than me, and No.2, he was also grunting, swatting and flinching, just like I was,” he says.

“The only difference perhaps between him and me was I knew something was very, very wrong with my ability to see reality.”

Can’t handle it on my own

When he got home Gunsberg sought help immediately and embarked on a new diagnosis process and care plan.

He says he has come to the acceptance that he cannot handle his mental health on his own.

“I had to learn the hard way that I need daily medication to manage my mental health.”

He says that after he experienced that episode, he knew he had to talk about it.

“When people think of mental illness they think of the homeless man that I passed on the jogging path – stinking, absent, twitchy, dangerous.

“But I was that guy.

“And I could be that man again if I don’t look after myself and don’t listen to my doctors.”

Since outing himself in 2016, Gunsberg has since become a board member of SANE Australia.

“After what I went through, I just knew that I had to help others, I had to help other people realise that you can indeed get better and other people living with those who are struggling are not alone and there is help available.

Gunsberg urges anyone with any concerns, either their own or someone close to them, to take the first step and seek help.

“You just have to pick up the phone, it’s that simple. Help is at hand. And by seeking help for yourself or someone else, you can get on the right path to recovery.”

If you or anyone you know needs help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14

– ABC