How a screwdriver could solve Ray’s problem

Comment from Peter Saxon

It may come as a surprise to many that Ray Hadley is quite humble about his talent.

He doesn’t profess to have any special skills or powers other than an insatiable appetite for hard work. In a wide-ranging interview for radioinfo, titled, It’s Not an Act. It’s How I Feel, he told me, “I think it’s a leftover thing from my childhood where I saw my father work two jobs and my mother work two jobs. In the early days, I figured that even if I didn’t have as much talent as some of the others, if I illustrated to the employer that I was capable of doing a whole range of things, and kept doing a whole range of things, he’d see that I was good at my job.”

It’s that authentic background, that true belief that the world does not owe him a living that resonates so strongly with his core audience. But while working seven day weeks – on Sydney’s number one Morning show (Mon-Fri) and NRL calls on the weekends plus regular TV appearances – has brought fame and fortune to the ex-cabbie, it has also resulted in two failed marriages and now, with the arrest of his policeman son, allegedly for cocaine possession, it brings into question everything he stands for. 

An ex-spouse can be replaced with someone new. A son cannot. 

Failed marriages are, sadly, all too common in today’s society, rich or poor, famous or not. And many of us have had experience of a son, daughter, nephew or niece who’s become involved in drugs. For a man like Ray Hadley, who wears his heart on his sleeve, both failings – as a husband and now as a father – have been devastating. The latter, though, compared with the average dad, is infinitely more profound for both Hadley and son given their roles in society.

Very soon after the news of Daniel Hadley’s arrest, 2GB management wisely held a media conference on Saturday where a clearly distraught Hadley senior made a tearful statement. After explaining how, for some time, completely unbeknownst to him, Daniel had been having medical treatment for mental health issues, he said, “I now know how many parents feel when they think things are okay, when they’re not. I feel particularly inadequate as a father and a spokesman for R U OK Day when in fact my son is not ok. I’ll be making no more public comments on the matter and I hope you all understand why. He’s not a public figure but unfortunately for him I am.”

The irony of Hadley’s predicament was not lost on social media. Below is a selection of comments, from those that are fit to print, from the #rayhadley Twitter page.

Ray Hadley is not the first, nor will he be the last, workaholic father who defines himself through his career. Radio has more than its fair share. Situations like Hadley’s cause many to wake up to the rude shock that what they thought they were doing for the benefit of their family, as a good provider, they were instead depriving them of something more valuable, time and presence.

Some years ago, in my early 30’s, when I was at 2WS (prior to WSFM) I experienced a bout of depression after my house burnt down. While my wife, at the time, and daughter were falling apart, I had to hold it together and be “strong” and manage the situation – including a fire chief who suspected that I might have had something to do with the fire. 

Once the fire chief’s suspicions had been assuaged, insurance was settled and the house well on the way to being rebuilt, I started feeling hot flushes and nausea brought on by an anxiety I could neither control nor explain. 

So, I went to see a doctor – a local GP chosen at random. He had an abrupt manner and spoke as if telling Confucius jokes but gave me an invaluable piece of advice. After his examination found nothing physically wrong with me, he asked about what I did for a living and about my mental disposition and outlook on life in general. 

Having determined that I seemed to have a “robust personality,” he asked whether I’d had any stressful experiences of late. I told him about the house burning down.“That would do it!” he exclaimed.

“Your problem,” he said, “is you a hammer man.”

“A hammer man? What do you mean?”

“You see every problem as nail. You pull out hammer and hit nail on head. Fix problem. Except this time, you need screwdriver. You don’t have screwdriver, only hammer. Keep using hammer, only make problem worse. We get you screwdriver and teach you how to use it,” the Doctor told me.

So, he prescribed some medication for the short term and referred me to a therapist to teach me relaxation methods to overcome my anxiety. Soon enough, the house was rebuilt, the problem solved.

It’s not that Ray lacks compassion. He cares about causes, giving generously of his time and money for traditional charities. But as he confesses, the incident with his son has revealed an inadequacy in his role as a spokesman for R U OK Day. He’s not as deeply invested, emotionally, as he thought he was.

Judging by the more constructive comments from the twittersphere  (above) what is lacking from Ray’s toolbox is some empathy, which might lead to a deeper understanding of why people, including people like his son, turn to drugs in the first place. They’re not all losers. They don’t all falsely claim mental illness as an excuse. Often, they are just people, not possessed of Ray’s stoic constitution, struggling to make sense of an increasingly complex world. You can’t solve the problem by locking ’em all up. 

Like any other diagnosable disease, mental illness is indiscriminate. It affects Labor, Liberal, Greens and One Nation voters in equal proportions. There’s nothing wrong with holding a conservative agenda but we should have compassion and empathy for anyone who is physically or mentally ill.


Peter Saxon

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