Travel back to 2012, my life was amazing, a beautiful family, a loving wife, and a beautiful daughter – all I could ever dream of. Little did I know a phone call would change my whole world. My brother, Deano called me to say he needed me and needs to talk.
We went to a bar and sat down when Deano mumbled the words I will never forget; these words still haunt me to this day. He buried his head inside his cowboy hat, stared at his feet, then says oh so softly in pain, “I’m going to kill myself.”
I was in shock and completely taken aback! Was he serious?? What do I say? Who do I call? I just didn’t know what to do and was unsure of what to say, so I reply in the most un-educated way I possibly could have, “Are you joking? Why don`t you just go see someone?”
I didn’t believe him and that was my worst and biggest mistake of my life to this day… What was I thinking, or was I not thinking, or worse, trying to avoid the conversation?
He rang me the following week. I couldn’t answer the phone as I had no idea what to say, so, I let it ring out. He left a message, “Bro, I`m so sorry but I gotta’ go, look after your family, love ya bro!!”
I frantically rang back but it was too late, he took his life that day and left behind a wife and four beautiful kids, along with an amazing loving family.
Losing my brother was the hardest thing I have ever gone through. After his passing, I threw myself into bodybuilding. It`s what I know and it’s what I have done for 18 years. I put in place some goals, sky-high ambitions, and started looking for a purpose through this adversity. I decided I would battle through blood, sweat, and tears and do a bodybuilding show.
“Overcoming adversity is mind blowing. We grow from our darkest days and darkest experiences.”
I went on to win all my shows and dedicated every show and victory to Deano but felt I could still be doing more. I decided to change careers, as I identified my true purpose through my adversity.
Fast forward to 2020, I am now a coach that specialises in taking amazing people from suicidal thoughts and various mental illnesses to the fitness stage by providing them a purpose, giving them a goal and giving them the faith and hope they have been missing. I now have a Team full of Australian Champions, World champions, and professionals. Though most importantly, a team full of resilient, amazing humans.
I’m inspired by the incredible strength shown by these amazing courageous individuals. I even built a private gym, Body By Leon, so these amazing humans can have a private safe space to simply be themselves and be heard. I also furthered my career and am now a counsellor specialising in anxiety and mental illness to add to my coaching.
“It is true, the power of adversity is mind-blowing!!! You find strength, resilience and you build a tolerance to never quitting, no matter how hard or dark the days get!”
I now tell my story around the world to help raise awareness about suicide and mental health. I also wrote a book, `It’s how You Think’ to provide faith and hope to the world. I live a life of gratitude to be fulfilled in order to give back to others. I tell my story in honour of my brother Deano so that I can help educate others on how to react and what to do if they know someone who is suicidal.
No matter how dark the days are or how dark the tunnel is, the light will shine again. It may not be tomorrow, or the following day, but if we utilise the support of love ones, speak up so someone can listen, be so resilient that you have the will to never quit, you also can find your purpose to change the word.
Leon is a mental health advocate for The Thompson Institute and The Alliance for Suicide Prevention Sunshine Coast.