How childhood obsession sparked brutal mental health struggle

Olivia Lambert

·News Editor
·5-min read

Nick Bracks was still in primary school when he began struggling with depression and addiction.

At about 10 years old, the actor and son of former Victorian premier Steve Bracks became fixated on becoming a professional athlete.

After starting middle-distance running, a common activity for any young kid, his focus on his goal soon morphed into an unhealthy obsession.

When the now 33-year-old was just 12 he was training up to six or seven hours a day.

He would wake up earlier than anybody in his household and sneak out to exercise – hiding from his family just how obsessed he was becoming.

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“That went on until I was about 15 or 16 and it stunted my growth and a whole range of things,” he said.

“It added a lot of weight to social issues I was having that led to other problems.”

Speaking to Yahoo News Australia as part of its What’s Up? mental health series, Bracks revealed he continued to struggle after leaving school and his poor mental health manifested in the form of alcohol abuse.

Professional headshot of Nick Bracks.
Actor Nick Bracks now aims to help others struggling with mental health issues. Source: Instagram

“I used alcohol as a way to cope and I started using that to the extreme,” he said.

He dropped out of university and began making a string of poor decisions with a mind clouded by intoxication, and his struggles with anxiety and depression.

Alcohol addiction almost takes young man’s life

Growing up in a well-known family, Bracks said he put pressure on himself to succeed but began to spiral out of control despite having the support of his parents.

Nick Bracks sits in a park.
Nick Bracks says having control over his routine helped him manage his mental health. Source: Instagram

In 2007, when Bracks was just 20-years-old, his alcohol addiction almost killed him when he made the wrong decision to get into the family car with a mate.

The joyride fast became a nightmare after the then P-plater crashed into a tree and returned a blood alcohol level of 0.129.

He wasn’t injured but his friend in the passenger seat went to hospital with minor cuts, and Bracks landed in court on a drink-driving charge.

The young man was lucky the consequences were not more dire.

Nick Bracks explaining his battle against depression

Bracks said that was when he had truly hit rock bottom. He began seeking professional help for his issues and became an advocate for others struggling with their own mental health.

“I couldn’t hide it anymore, my parents took me to see a psychologist and I started seeing it was a serious issue and I needed to deal with it,” he said.

“My parents had seen for quite a while I was trying to hide something. I would be out every weekend and they’d be at home worried about getting a phone call about me getting into a dangerous situation.

“I had lost all motivation, I wasn’t working and staying in bed until about 3 or 4pm – just disconnecting from everything.

“I got to the point where I had to confront things, I don’t want to confront and find a way to move forward.”

After physically vomiting before having to speak in front of just five people when he was younger, he went on to act in major soaps like Neighbours and now shares his story with people all across the country.

Nick Bracks’ first step on mental health recovery

Bracks, who launched the mental health podcast Move Your Mind last year, says the worst thing people struggling can do is nothing.

“The first step is always the hardest, but it’s not as hard as we make up in our minds,” he said.

“The thought is more overwhelming than the act. Do literally anything – talk to a friend, see a psychologist, or speak to somebody at work if you’re afraid to speak to somebody you’re close to.

“Once you take that first step you start the process of getting the help you need. Too often people sit on it and the more you leave it, the bigger problem it becomes and a bigger thing you need to overcome.”

Bracks said people with mental health issues need somebody to listen rather than be told what to do.

Nick Bracks poses on a balcony with a  beach in the background.
Nick Bracks struggled with alcohol abuse when he was younger. Source: Instagram

“Just knowing you have the support. Everyone in life has issues with mental wellbeing and we all need a support network – I have three or four people I can call 24/7 who know me inside out, and I offer the same to them.”

The motivational speaker and mental health advocate said he now practises gratitude through journaling and has added meditation to his daily routine.

“I would say one of the most important things is routine. A lot of anxiety stems from uncertainty and with Covid there’s more uncertainty than ever,” he said.

“We can’t control a lot but we can control our own daily routines. I do things I’m in control of just for me, and they make me feel good.

“If the world is falling around you, have these routines to draw back to, have it as a crutch and something you can have control over.“

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636, Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.

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