opinion

This week, Kyle Sandilands told us he is "very sad". We need to listen to him.

This post deals with mental health and might be triggering for some readers.

We need to listen to Kyle Sandilands.

That’s not something I would normally suggest, considering his often controversial on-air stunts and frequently offensive comments.

But, this week, the 48-year-old did something remarkable.

Sandilands, a man who has an almost unparalleled ability to initiate and influence a national conversation to an intensely engaged audience in Australia, admitted he is struggling with his mental health.

It was remarkable, because it is – sadly – so rare.

On Monday’s episode of KIIS 106.5’s Kyle and Jackie O Show, the millionaire “shock jock” responded to the backlash he received after his 60 Minutes segment aired on Sunday night. During the segment, he tearfully told his co-host, Jackie ‘O’ Henderson, that he was suffering from a serious health condition, before admitting it was all a joke.

Many thought it was distasteful, and even more distasteful of Channel Nine to promote the ostensible confession and mislead audiences.

It left a sour taste in the mouths of Australians, one many are now accustomed to when it comes to Kyle Sandilands.

But on Monday morning, the radio host confessed those were real tears, accompanied by real emotion.

“The honest truth as to why I was so able to cry… was because inside I’m very sad,” he revealed.

As tears started to cause his voice to briefly choke, he added: “I’m not joking. Inside my person, I’m very sad.”

“When you [Jackie] said ‘I’m very worried about him,’ a wave of emotion went through me and then I realised, ‘Oh, sh*t, I’m losing control here,’ and so I had to make up that something was wrong as a joke. It was real emotion…”

Addressing their audience, Sandilands continued: “You look at me and you think, ‘You’re a fat bastard, you should be sad,’ or, ‘You’ve got everything…’ but there is great sadness in me that I just carry around every day.”

Even his co-host, the woman who has sat beside him for 20 years, sat there stunned.

Sandilands continued: “I feel often very alone, even though I’m constantly surrounded by people.”

Watch: Kyle Sandilands talks about his mental health on radio. Post continues below video. 

Video by The Kyle and Jackie O Show

The following day, on Tuesday, Sandilands shared the overwhelming response he received from friends checking in.

“Every b**tard and their dog sent messages. Which is very nice, but all day – the phone [buzzing] it was so annoying,” Sandilands said.

“My message is, when you’re feeling sad, tell no-one,” he joked on air. As he often does, by his own admission, he was using humour to mask his pain.

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That comment – to “tell no-one” – was not received well. It sparked opinion articles and comments online calling for him to be taken off air and it was not the first time that such a campaign has been mounted against him.

But this time, it’s different. Because before our eyes, we are witnessing a man on a public stage navigate the uncertainty of his own mental health.

On Wednesday, Sandilands brought up the conversation of his “sadness” for the fourth time this week. This time, he was responding to the backlash.

“When I said that, everyone knew that was me masking it with a bit of humour,” he shared. “It’s dishonest and misleading for [a journalist] to take something that was clearly a joke and turn it into some fact.

“It’s difficult because I haven’t even had time to figure out myself what is going on with me. I don’t think I’ve got a mental illness, but maybe I do?”

Sandilands continued, saying he would “flip flop from happy one minute to bursting into tears while driving the car.

“I don’t even know what’s wrong with me and I’ve been as honest as I can.”

His co-host, Jackie O, told him “It’s very brave what you’ve done.

“Not a lot of people want to talk about it and I know you find it difficult to talk about. But at least you did. You opened that door and for it to be shut in your face like that is, I think, despicable.”

Listen: Mamamia Out Loud discuss the complicated appeal of Kyle Sandilands. Post continues below audio. 

We need to talk about this more, particularly when it comes to men’s mental health in Australia.

According to Beyond Blue, men are far less likely than women to seek help for mental health conditions. The reasons for that are complex, but as Kyle shared when he spoke about his struggle, he was worried it would be seen as a “weakness”. Which as Jackie O assured him, it is not.

With men less likely than women to talk about their mental health problems, the consequences for them can be far greater. In fact, in Australia, men are three times more likely to die by suicide than women.

If we’re serious about helping the millions of Australians who are suffering from mental health issues, we can’t condemn those who choose to bravely speak up about their struggles.

It doesn’t matter who they are – whether they’re your friends, family members or famous people.

Sandilands is one of the most controversial figures in the Australian entertainment industry. Personally, I support little of what he says on air. But does that make it okay to ridicule him when he shares his very real and raw struggle with mental health?

We can’t be so blinded by dislike of someone that we ignore their pain.

We need to listen. We need to reach out. We need to do more.

Because the possible consequences of turning away from people in such pain are truly frightening.

If you think you may be experiencing depression or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner. If you’re based in Australia, please contact Lifeline 13 11 14 for support or beyondblue 1300 22 4636.


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