NEEDED: Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party candidate for the seat of Clarence, Steve Cansdell, says Grafton Base Hospital must have a mental health unit.
NEEDED: Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party candidate for the seat of Clarence, Steve Cansdell, says Grafton Base Hospital must have a mental health unit. Adam Hourigan

Grafton desperate for mental health unit: Cansdell

WHEN Steve Cansdell resigned from State Parliament in disgrace in 2011, his mental health deteriorated quickly.

The former light heavyweight boxing champion with a 'tough guy' persona said he was probably the last person anyone would think to have suffered from mental health issues, but stressed it was something that can impact anyone.

It is the reason Mr Cansdell is pushing for a self-admission mental health unit at Grafton Base Hospital.

When struggling with mental health issues, the last thing many want to do is leave their home and family, so Mr Cansdell said having a mental health unit closer to home could support people in the Clarence Valley to get the help they need.

"I went through two years of depression after I had to resign and I became a victim of cyber bullying," he said.

"There was a lot of attack on my integrity over what I did in ignorance, not noticing the severity of it.

"The fact I felt my credibility had been taken away; 10 years in local government, eight in State Parliament, you're working your butt off and doing a lot of good.

"I toughed it out, which men do sometimes."

Mr Cansdell, who is running as a candidate for the seat of Clarence at the next NSW election, said there was one time in particular when he was 10km off the coast of Queensland in trouble in a kayak, when he felt he was prepared to die.

"I didn't care," he said.

"I needed help then, and if in the lead up to that there had been a self-admission unit to go in and get assessed and talk, I would have gone looking for it."

Mr Cansdell said people currently need to go to Lismore or Coffs Harbour, but it would be a positive for the community to open a mental health unit here.

He said problems can get so bad that it's often the police or ambulance who end up taking people to one of the hospitals.

"If you're going to spend $270m on an upgrade, then we need a mental health, self-admission ward," Mr Cansdell said.

Mr Cansdell said he would be pushing for this regardless of his status as a candidate in the next State Government election, because it was a major problem for the Clarence Valley.

"Everyone thinks I'm bullet proof, and I like to think I am too, it's the typical male bravado," he said. "But there are times I wanted to break down and cry but I couldn't.

"There are times when I didn't want to show that vulnerability, but it becomes dangerous.

"But if there was somewhere that was self-admission and easily accessible and supportive, they can diagnose."

Mr Cansdell said no matter who was in government, they need to be addressing the mental health issues in the Clarence Valley.

If this story has raised mental health concerns for you, or someone you love, you can get help by contacting Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 22 46 36



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