My younger brother Daniel is 25 years old. I’ve always bragged about how gorgeous yet modest, talented but humble he is. Dan’s the most thoughtful, kind, considerate and generally fantastic young man I’ve ever met. He cooks, cleans, dresses well, doesn’t smoke, doesn’t drink – the ultimate SNAG, and I am so proud to be his big sister.
He has travelled the world solo twice, mentored kids, won the Pan-Paciﬁc Championships for the sport he loves, and started his own business. Dan is idolised by his students, adored by his girlfriend and cherished by his family and friends.
Dan told me this February that he thought something was wrong with him. He was incomprehensibly upset – it didn’t make sense to him or me. He’s young, ﬁt, strong, intelligent, grounded and surrounded by love. I didn’t understand that none of that matters when you’re depressed.
Dan did all the right things to try to get himself better. He took the medication he was prescribed, attended the appointments, read books to understand more about the mind. After reading The Art of Happiness several times over, he went to see the Dalai Lama with the hope to broaden his already mature wisdom, knowledge and insight.
I did everything I could to be there for him – my partner Ruth and I attended his gym two nights a week, had him over for dinner, hung out with him when he was lonely. For those 6 months I got up to 10 calls a day from Dan, when he’d often have nothing to say, and just cry. He’d call Ruth at 3am unable to sleep and desperately sad. He really leaned on us, and although we tried to hide the toll it took, I worry he felt like a burden. It broke me to see Dan hurt so much despite our tirelessness.
We went over to his place to play mahjong one night during the 3-day Dalai Lama workshop in June. I had never seen him that happy. We all had such a good time together – I burst into tears of joy as soon as he’d closed the front door. He was getting better.
At 10pm on a Friday night a few weeks later, I got a call from my sister to ask what was going on – Dan had just been registered as a Missing Person. He hasn’t been seen since that morning, when he was having an everyday ordinary chat with Dad in the kitchen. Within half an hour, he’d gone from just bumming around the house, to vanishing into thin air.
I couldn’t sleep – there was way too much to do, too many scenarios to imagine. Quietly, I was conﬁdent he’d just gone away to get some space for a few days, maybe a week. After ﬁve months there’s just as much to do and it can only stop when we’ve found him. It has consumed me, and regardless of what the well-intentioned say, Dan will continue to be my sole focus. I love him, and as exhausted, frustrated and crazy as all of this is making me, I can’t give up.
The worst (and most common) question to answer is ‘What does your gut tell you?’. Those ‘feelings’ people get in the movies; they’re not guaranteed. I have no idea what, how or where. It plagues our minds – we just don’t know. The only thing we do know is that Dan is in Australia. He left without ID, money, his watch or any other belongings, besides his phone (which wasn’t answered the whole day of his disappearance and has been off since that night). He’s just walked away from it all.
Considering someone goes missing every 15 minutes in Australia, we’ve been fortunate with media coverage. I’ve quit my job to manage it, but we’ve had people all over the country putting posters up in their local shops, metropolitan train stations, along major highways. That kind of support has been overwhelming, but Dan is still missing.
This close to Christmas and without even one lead, we’ve been forced to offer a reward. I worry it’ll attract the kind of people who could lead us on a wild, emotional and time-wasting goose chase, but it’s a risk we have to take.
If you can help me ﬁnd him, by means of social media, donation or physically putting a poster up, I’d be so grateful. I promise – he’s worth it (just as I’m sure your brother, son, boyfriend or nephew would be).
Daniel James O’Keeffe is 6ft tall, with hazel eyes, fair skin and brown hair. Keep an eye out over the holidays and if you think you cross paths with him, simply ask ‘Are you Daniel?’. Sightings can be reported via 0478 661 092 (us directly).
If you are going through a tough time, please make sure you get help:
Call Lifeline on 131 114 for crisis support
Visit Headspace (12 – 25 year olds)
Or see your local GP