Home And Away star’s raw admission
One minute, Ben Steel was on top of the world after landing his big acting break and cementing himself as a rising star of Australia's small screen.
The budding young performer was cast as Jude Lawson in Channel 7's long-running soap Home And Away in 2000 and earned a Best New Talent nomination at the Logies in 2001.
When his contract came up after three successful years, it wasn't renewed. Steel said was shocked and devastated.
"I think that was the beginning of my struggles," Steel said of his long battle with depression and anxiety in the years since.
"I was on such a high, being on a show like that. I was doing what I loved. I was getting paid for it too. There were parties, meeting some of my idols, fans, so many amazing things, and suddenly it all stops.
"It was kind of like, who am I? I put so much onto this one little aspect of myself."
Despite the perceived glamour, entertainment industry professionals are five times more likely to suffer depression than the general population and suicide rates are twice as high.
The revealing project, airing tonight on ABC at 9.30pm, features the actors Sam Neill, Michala Banas and Shane Jacobson, reality TV musician Dean Ray, writer and director Jocelyn Moorhouse, The Australian Ballet creative director David McAllister AM and TV writer Sarah Walker.
"This film literally saved my life," Steel said. "If I hadn't gone on this journey, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be here."
When he began work on the documentary, he didn't expect to appear in the finished product, but such was the extent of his self-discovery that his own story features prominently.
After Home And Away, Steel pursued his own filmmaking endeavours, before heading abroad to work and study in London, Los Angeles and Prague.
"I went overseas for a long time," he said.
"When I came home to Australia and back to the industry, I wasn't expecting a parade or anything, but it was a shock. It was really hard to get back in the room and back on track.
"I had those professional pressures and a few personal pressures, and I just wasn't coping with life.
"When I started making the film, I didn't realise that I needed help. I didn't expect to be such a big part of the film, as far as being in it. I was just going to interview other people."
Those interviews with entertainment industry professionals are profound, with Banas revealing she was at the depths of despair while at the height of success.
"I went through the absolute pits of depression," Banas, whose credits include Always Greener, McLeod's Daughters and Winners & Losers, said in the film.
"Everything was going so well for me, I was so successful, I had everything I ever wanted, and I felt like sh*t.
"During Always Greener, I was very, very successful. I was on the cover of magazines, I was doing some music stuff as well, I think anybody would've given their left arm to be in the position I was in.
"(It) was the lowest of lows. I was just so afraid. But I think that scared me the most was that I didn't have a reason to feel that way."
Neill, who has achieved enormous success in Hollywood with Jurassic Park and The Piano, offered his thoughts on why performers are more likely to struggle.
"If you think of yourself as an actor, a dancer or a singer and you're not acting, you're not dancing or you're not singing, what are you?" Neill said.
"Most people are between jobs. What are you between jobs? If you're not (working), you're kind of no one. This is how it's possible to see yourself."
Neill said the constant and unavoidable rejection of performing is tough for those in the business.
"But when you're working, if you're subject to depression and you're working on something enjoyable, the darkness goes away. But if you're not working, the darkness can close in on you," he said.
"I've had a few periods in my life where I'm not working and I feel that darkness close in."
In addition to tackling the issue of mental health in his industry, Steel said he hopes the documentary helps anyone who might be struggling.
"Knowing you're not alone is very important," he said.
"I hope that a person who might be going through a rough patch will not feel so alone. Perhaps they'll see something that reflects something in them, and it might spark them to have a conversation with somebody.
"For people who aren't struggling themselves, I hope it gives a deeper understanding of the issues."
The Show Must Go On airs tonight at 9.30pm on ABC.
If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit lifeline.org.au