BEATING THE BLUES - A passionate interview with Jeff Kennett and De Backman-Hoyle

By: Matt Weedon - Tobin Brothers Funerals
Monday, May 11, 2015

When Jeff Kennett, AC, accepted our invitation for an interview, we were eager to find out what drove the former Premier, with a reputation as a tough, outspoken, no-nonsense character, to become founder of beyondblue, a national initiative that builds understanding and awareness of depression in the wider community.

Speaking with Kennett you start to realise how passionate and open he is about mental health issues. In the video below, you will see how his relaxed manner throughout the interview is balanced by his obvious drive, fervour and long-term commitment to this cause.


How then did Jeff Kennett go from politics to becoming the chairman of beyondblue, one of the most well known not for profit organisations in Australia?

“My daughter came to me in 1997, after two of her friends died in totally unrelated car accidents,” Kennett said. “She was understandably very upset and she said to me, who was Premier at the time and a person of some influence, what can you do to stop these young men dying on the roads? I thought and I think she thought at the time that we were talking about lowering the road toll, but when we learnt more about these deaths we found that both were young men who had been separated from their girlfriends, were emotionally depressed and had used alcohol and their cars to take their lives. So they were suicides.

 “That meant it wasn’t so much about reducing the road toll, it was actually about trying to better understand what causes people to take their own lives and that lead us down this path towards depressive illnesses and the establishment of beyondblue.

Depression, according to the World Health Organisation, is defined as “a common mental disorder that presents with depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy and poor concentration.” In more extreme cases, depression can lead to suicide which is associated with the loss of about 850,000 lives every year world wide.

Kennett considers his work with beyondblue “…outside of family, to be the most important thing (he’s) done to date.

“To win the war (against depression), I think we need to wave a magic wand and end discrimination, and change in part the way we live our lives…Life isn’t just for working to prove yourself better than the next person…there’s got to be another side to life.”

Later, we interviewed Ms De Backman-Hoyle who through her own harrowing experiences has cared for people with mental illnesses and become an ambassador and speaker for beyondblue. 

In 1986 she was bereaved by the death of her father in law after his suicide. Then after a 10 year marriage her first husband Andrew also then suicided, which was the conclusion to many years of untreated manic depressive disorder.

Backman-Hoyle believes suicide prevention is inhibited by a number of factors. “I think that we need to take away some of the stigma and discrimination that still goes with suicide. I think we also need to equip families, friends, and professionals in how to identify early warning signs and how to have some of the hardest conversations that they’re ever going to have in their life.”

For more information about managing depression and suicide prevention please visit:

Written by: Matt Weedon – Tobin Brothers Funerals

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