The theme of this year’s 19th Annual Bruce Woodcock Memorial Lecture is ‘Sharing stories, changing lives’. Each week, as we count down to the event in October, we’ll be featuring blogs from talented storytellers in our community. They’ll be sharing with you their moments of transformation—reflections about overcoming barriers and gaining strength, support and knowledge. The fourth in our series is ‘The day my car blew up’ by Ben Matthews, who highlights the importance of simply stopping to ask if someone needs help.

Very recently I was driving home from a trip to Sydney and, as luck would have it, my car blew up.

Most of us that drive know that sinking feeling when we get a flat tire or our car breaks down. Being on the Hume highway, in the middle of nowhere at 7 o’clock at night, was way beyond a sinking feeling. Who do I call? What do I do? Where will I go? I sat there silently in the knowledge that someone stopping to help was highly unlikely.

I grew up in a small country town and I remember numerous occasions where I had broken down or had a flat tyre, but I never had that sinking feeling. If you broke down and had your bonnet up, someone would always stop and check if you needed help. You actually took it for granted.

So there I am stuck in the dark on the side of the road calling family and friends. My son was not able to help—he was at the pub. There were numerous wonderful people I called, but none were able to do the six-hour round trip. Eventually, however, I had a kind friend come to my rescue, help me out, get me to a hotel and save the day. 

Were it not for that one kind friend, I would have been stuck in the dark. Fortunately, I would have been able to afford to get a taxi to come and collect me and return to the hotel in Sydney. It would have been expensive, but I could do it. We live in a world where we do rely on friends and family when in need. Most other needs are facilitated through payment for services. 

Thinking about why I am writing this blog, my mind went to a place of what it would be like to have had no friend to be there for me, no money to pay for a taxi. To just being left on the side of a long, dark road with no chance of getting help—knowing that no one would stop to help me out.

My mental health journey was like that, I was stuck on the side of the road without a friend, without money and knowing that no one would stop and help me. When this happens, the road stays dark, and you believe you don’t deserve help so you are afraid to ask for it. For many of us, when we have asked for help, we have been treated badly, blamed for our circumstance, stigmatised and left sorry for asking in the first place.

I had a completely different story prepared for this blog until this experience, I was going to talk to the dark times, what I did to move to a place of recovery and all the good stuff about where I am now. But I just want to send one message with this story, when you see someone broken down on the road, remember you do not need to fix the car, sometimes all someone needs is a lift to a safe place, where they can get the help they need. It’s important that we can rely on friends, family and loved ones.

We also need a world where we can rely on our communities, for that little bit of help when needed as well.

Book your place at the 19th Annual Bruce Woodcock Memorial Lecture.