Ash Vale is the kind of bloke who is never short of a joke. He loves fishing, league, Warhammer and hanging out with his Dad, Ozzie. They’re self-confessed best mates who openly talk about everything from mental health to parenting and marriage too.
Tell us about your relationship growing up
Ash: Dad’s just a big teddy bear who I can go to about anything. Growing up we used to go on fishing trips, hang out or watch a game of footy. We spent a lot of time together.
I remember there was always a buzz in the house when he’d get home from work. It was immediate play time when he walked in the door or we’d go and do something cool like have a water fight. He was always present in those younger years and over time that grew into better communication and talking about more serious stuff.
Ozzie: My papa used to say, you produced him, you love him. So, I did.
I think it’s important to be part of your kid’s world. You can’t just think, ‘not now’ or ‘wait a minute’ because they’re looking forward to seeing you. It’s important that we look forward to seeing them too. That’s where the love comes from. The minute you see their little faces light up it melts you. It’s all about love and spending time.
Ash, how has your Dad influenced you as a father?
It’s all in the love he showed us as kids. I’ve tried to do the same with my daughters. Nowadays we’ve got a lot more distractions. You’ve gotta put the phone down and play and you don’t have to do a lot with them either. It’s amazing how many hours a kid will sit and cut up pretend tomatoes just because you’re sitting there with them. That time matters for them and your relationship.
Dad also worked hard to put us in a good position as a family. I try to work hard so that my family can have the best of things too. I’ve just taken the soft sales way whereas he went hard with the physical labour.
At the end of the day, it’s the love, time and hard work that I learned from him.
Tell us about a challenging time in your relationship.
Ash: When I was in my twenties, I was in a happy relationship with a dream job. I lived a good life, yet I felt like something was wrong. I’d talk to people and hear about their mental health challenges and trauma. I related to how they were feeling but I didn’t have any trauma growing up. I had a perfect upbringing, great parents, mates and I was active. It didn’t make sense for me to be feeling depressed.
Eventually things got really bad, and my mum came down to check on me. It was a lot easier to talk to mum because she had battled it too. It was a struggle to talk to the old man about it. I always worried about what he was going to say. I thought ‘he’s not gonna understand’ or ‘he’s gonna think I’m weak.’ It was never the case at all, but it definitely went through my mind many times.
Ozzie, how did you support Ash through his experience of depression?
Ozzie: I came from a background where my father didn’t show a lot of care. No sympathy was given, so no sympathy was ever asked for. You just carried on unless you were bleeding.
I have struggled with my son’s depression a bit. Knowing how to talk about it or what to say has been hard. But even though I struggled with it, I still listened. You don’t have to react or judge. You just listen.
There are fishing trips we’ve on where we’ve barely said a word to each other. I know we can’t all go fishing but we can be available. You don’t have to be the man who has the answers all the time. You can be there to listen, and it will do wonders.
Ash, what would you say to other men who are battling depression?
You don’t need to have a reason to be depressed. Your feelings still matter even if someone else’s trauma seems bigger than yours. Don’t compare and know that you don’t need a reason to feel the way you feel. Find what makes you tick, seek help, and speak up if you’re feeling low or depressed.
Ash, how did it feel to have your Dad’s support through your depression?
It’s made me feel OK with who I am. It gives me hope out there for other Dad’s too who have had upbringings like his. His father role model wasn’t a good one but still, he tried to break that mould for me, and it’s helped. We’re best mates.
The way he handled the mental health side of things really meant a lot to me. And it wasn’t about his response or answers. It was just him being there for me. I think that has helped prepare me well as a father because I realise, I don’t need to have all the answers for my girls.
If you’re feeling low or struggling, it is OK to ask for help. Reach out to a mate or family member you trust to talk. You can also call or free text 1737 to speak to someone who can help.