2012 should have been the best year of Justin Geange’s life. He had a loving wife and daughters, his voice had carried him to the semi-finals of Australia’s Got Talent, and he was planning a tilt at State politics. However, by August the following year, Justin very nearly took his own life because he was made redundant after nearly 20 years with the same company.
“Looking back, it was like sitting in the front row of the movies. I just couldn’t see the bigger picture.”
The redundancy wasn’t unexpected and it wasn’t the only reason for what was to come, but for Justin, hitting the age of 41 with no job and no prospect of getting one was a major blow.
“To cut a long story short, I reached the point where I believed I was a complete failure. I thought that my family would be better off without me.”
Thanks mainly to his wife Marnie’s instincts, Justin opened his eyes in hospital and got the chance to see just how much he’d misunderstood his place in the world. “It was like I’d let off a hand grenade, which hadn’t hit the people closest to me but sprayed shrapnel far and wide.”
“Mates started rocking up one after the other—blokey, salt of the earth types—who wanted to tell me they cared and how devastated they were that it had come to this.”
For Justin, those bedside conversations were the first steps towards recovery and an inspiration that changed the direction of his life. “In truth, there are a lot of blokes out there doing it tough but the tragedy is we don’t talk about it. It’s time we started.”
For his part, Justin now works part-time helping people adjust to life after being institutionalised. He also studies for a psychology degree but doesn’t underestimate the task ahead. “Recovery’s a journey, not a destination, and that means there are slips backwards as well as steps forward.
“We’re not all round pegs in round holes and for me, things started to make sense when I found Cameron, a case worker who spoke to me in the fair dinkum, honest way that I needed.”
Not surprisingly, Justin’s experience has also had a profound influence on his art.
“These days, I write songs that remind me to ask questions; songs that talk about how important it is to look after each other and how it’s often the small things that get us through life.”
That last observation inspired something Justin does on the anniversary of his experience—a simple act he calls the $5 challenge.
“Take five bucks and buy someone a coffee or a beer or whatever, and just have a yarn. You’ll probably have no idea at the time, but a single conversation can change a life, or maybe even save one.”
Three years on, Justin Geange is a singer who’s learned the power of the spoken word.
First published in Movember Australia