real life

'My high school friend took his own life two years ago. Here's what I wish I did differently.'

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

You never think it’s going to be the last time you see them. You never think it’s going to be the last text you send.

You never think it’s going to be the last conversation you have with them.

Then you get the phone call that changes everything.

It’s been two years since I lost a high school friend of mine to suicide, almost to the day.

He was a beautiful, radiant person. I used to think of him like sunshine.

He had a big, booming voice. His arms opened as wide as his heart. He enveloped you in these deep, warm cuddles. Not just hugs. Big, bold, broad cuddles. 

His smile filled his face and lit up a room.

Looking back, I was a little bit in love with him.

He was just… good. He was kind. He was wonderful and cheeky and wild and soft, all at the same time.

But inside that bubbly exterior was a man struggling with his mental health. A man who had struggled for many, many years.

In 2019, we lost him to suicide.

I still remember everything about the day I got that phone call.

I was in the passenger’s seat of my car. My ex-boyfriend, who also knew him well, was driving us home from the shops at the time. 

A girlfriend was incessantly trying to ring me. I was a little annoyed because I was hungry and wasn’t really up for chatting.

She insisted I needed to call her back. As soon as possible.

So, I did. 

Bestselling author Marian Keyes on overcoming depression.

Video via Mamamia

Rain started to splatter the windscreen as the phone rang. She picked up almost immediately and sobbed my name. She told me the news through her tears and a broken voice.

He was gone.

The reaction inside me was instantaneous and visceral. My blood went cold. My lips and my hands started to tremble. My heart raced in my chest. My mouth started speaking words I hadn’t processed.

"No… oh, no."

Honestly, I was shocked. But I wasn’t surprised.

I knew he had experienced dark times. The last time I saw him, we spoke about it. 

I remember sending him a message at the tail end of 2018, telling him I’d love to catch up in the new year. I told him we’d have him over for dinner. I told him that we were there for him and he should never forget that.

He saw the message and didn’t respond.

I never followed up.

And I never saw him again.

His funeral was beautiful and tragic. Beautiful because it was clear how loved he was. There wasn’t a seat left vacant. People were standing in the corridors and by doors, spilling into the garden and the hall.

Beautiful but tragic, because his life had been so unfairly and unjustly cut short.

I was angry at myself. 

I was angry that I didn’t follow up.

I still, to this day, think about the things I didn’t do and the conversation I didn’t have.

Two weeks ago, as Sydney began its third lockdown, I came across a quote that made me think of him again. 

‘I’d rather have a difficult conversation than make a speech at your funeral.’

It hit me like a tonne of bricks.

I thought about him.


But not just about him. I thought about the hundreds and thousands of men in Australia who are struggling and suffering every single day in silence. Wishing to be heard and understood.

I knew, that instead of sitting by my heater in lockdown, twiddling my thumbs and watching videos on TikTok, I had to do something.

That’s how Take 10 For Men was born.

Take 10 For Men is a men’s health initiative; 10-minute conversations with inspiring men about how they manage their mental health and support their mates.

I frantically sent men I find inspiring emails, direct messages and texts, in the hope that one, maybe two of them might be interested in joining me for a 10-minute chat about mental health.

I was blown away. 

Most responded quickly with a resounding ‘yes’, they’d love to help.

On Saturday 24/7, the first episode of Take 10 For Men will drop.

Every day, for 10 days, I will publish a new episode with an inspiring man. We talk about mental health. We talk about resilience. We talk about hardship. And we talk about how we can connect and support the men in our lives.

From pro athletes to authors, radio hosts to reality stars, charity founders to influencers - no stone is left unturned.

I hope that someone out there finds a morsel of wisdom that changes their life.

I hope this series encourages one man to check on a friend, every day, for ten days.

And I really, truly hope I can make my friend proud.

I miss you, mate.

Sophia Hatzis is a former journalist, turned personal trainer and fitness instructor, from the Northern Beaches of Sydney. She has a passion for mental health which stems from her own struggles with an eating disorder and anxiety as a teenager. She endeavours to change lives through her work in fitness and through telling powerful stories.

If you think you may be experiencing depression or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner. If you're based in Australia, 24-hour support is available through Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.