Greg Barns practices law in the area of human rights and criminal defence in both Melbourne and Hobart.
As a former senior political adviser to a number of Liberal Party premiers and federal government ministers, he left the Liberal Party in 2002 after it disendorsed him for his support for asylum seekers. He later joined the Australian Democrats for around two years, and was a Director of the Australian Lawyers Alliance.
Greg is the author of three books and writes regularly for the Hobart Mercury, the South China Morning Post and The Drum.
As an Ambassador for beyondblue, he shares his personal story of experiencing depression, and is committed to addressing mental health issues in the legal profession in Australia.
“Twenty years ago, I came across an essay by the famous English psychiatrist and writer Anthony Storr.
“Entitled Churchill’s Black Dog, Storr’s easy prose resonated with me. The notion of a mythical black dog, seen out of the corner of the eye at times, and at other times staring back at you, helped me make sense of periods of sadness and anxiety.
“A year or two after reading Storr’s essay, I was diagnosed with depression. The journey since has been a learning experience. Times of utter despair where I curl up in a hospital bed, look down the tunnel and see nothing but blackness are replaced by periods of levity where the world skips along on a bright sunny day.
“At times, my depression has stopped me in my tracks. Work is put to one side - ironically it is often the pressure of work that has driven me to the point where tears and fears build to a fog – lethargy ties me in knots.
“So how do I deal with these moments and days? There is no magic here. Everyone is different – for me, it’s with medication, therapy, yoga, running, music, and rest. Above all, it’s having those people in life who are there no matter what, where or how.
“If there is one insight I have gained over the years of living with depression, and seeing others do the same, it is that keeping it all inside is the wrong path.
“There is no shame in crying with friends, family, doctors and therapists. There is a sense of liberation in letting others know that I am not feeling ok. That I do need to reach out for support and help.
“Whether it’s Churchill’s ‘black dog’ or some other analogy, depression is something that I live with every day of year. And I mean ‘live’ – because while depression is debilitating for me some days, it doesn’t stop me from living a life that is enriching."