News & Media

Heafield brothers praise Terry's ride

  • From left, Tony and Noel

By: Leith Hillard

Category: Health & Safety

  11.23 AM 15 August, 2016

Location: General

Views: 14290

There is no guidebook when depression emerges undiagnosed in a family member.

Terry Heafield’s two brothers – Geelong City Firefighter Noel and Corio Senior Station Officer Tony – willingly admit they were completely in the dark.

“We didn’t know we were looking for clues,” said Tony. “It came to us as grumpiness which was very unlike Terry. He became almost un-fun and was talking about work too much. There always seemed to be something to be annoyed about – things like personality clashes that I thought were minor.

“He was taking himself so seriously and that’s what we missed.”

Noel agreed that the grumpiness had a masking effect.

“I banned him and Tony from talking about CFA,” he said. “We’d tell him, ‘Stop being moody.’

“He’d get argumentative and it would be, ‘Poor me’ but we just thought it was work and life stresses.

“When you ask if he’s okay and he says yes, where do you go from there?”

On top of that were Terry’s nine years in Wodonga when the brothers didn’t see him often. Noel and Tony had also never been aware of depression in the family: it simply wasn’t on their radar.

The family consensus is that Tony is the hands-on practical one, Terry is the academic one and Noel is the laid-back all-rounder and, according to him, “the youthful one with the most hair”.

More than that, though, Noel also recognises that Terry was always more compassionate; he always cared more.

“He was always the middle ground and the conscientious one.”

“We were close growing up and we’d always knocked about and been rowdy with each other,” said Tony. “We’d push Terry pretty hard and tell him to toughen up.

“When you push them and they’re annoyed, it’s a win.”

“We’ve been competitive our whole life with footy and cricket,” said Noel. “We’ve always been able to deal with everything and everything we’ve done we’ve been good at: identify an issue and work out how to fix it.”

The brothers spent time together after Terry had an operation, and Noel can now see that Terry was planting hints about the depth of his dark moods. (His depression had still not been diagnosed.) Terry’s wife Kylie was also passing on information.

“I look back and see missed opportunities to talk,” continued Noel. “We saw him in hospital but we still didn’t talk. I put it down to blokeyness, 100 per cent.”

In fact it was conversations between Kylie, Noel’s wife Rachael and Tony’s wife Diane that really brought the issue of depression to the brother’s attention. They both agree: listen to your wives. That’s where the real information was being exchanged.

For the past three years, the brothers and their families have gone camping together.

Noel can see that Terry has changed for the better.

“He’s enjoying his life more and sport is a good outlet,” he said. “The fire brigade can take over your life and you need an outlet that’s not fire-brigade related.”

For 2500 kilometres and three weeks, that outlet is cycling.

“What concerned me was is he going to get better,” said Tony. "Have I lost my little brother? Doing this ride is pretty awesome. To go public is a pretty brave thing.

“I think depression is becoming more common and Terry’s ride brings it out in the open more. That makes it even more worthwhile.

“The fire brigade recruits alpha people and everyone on shift is competitive. Fourteen-hundred apply and 30 get through so you’re pretty elite. You’re the invincible ones, but actually openness and talking honestly is so important and that’s something I’ve had to learn.”

Noel readily agreed.  “You’re not always 10 foot tall and bulletproof.”

Last Updated: 15 August 2016