Gloves off in fight against depression

Work/life balance got seriously out of kilter for Paul Bayer of Arkles Bay, with dire consequences, but he is fighting back.

Tipping that scale too far in favour of work was a mistake that Paul says he won’t make again, as it eventually had a severe impact on his mental health.

Paul had been self-employed for 10 years, which he says involves long hours without a break and working through when you are sick.

“A lot of business owners fall into this category,” he says. “It’s so important to take a break when you are knackered, or sick, but many don’t.”

His wife Andria was worried about his moods, that he was on a short fuse with their children, lethargic and lacking any motivation. At the end of last year he was diagnosed with depression.

Paul says it was good to put a name to how he’d been feeling, but it took him a while to come to grips with the diagnosis. It was the start of his road to recovery, which he says has involved “the whole shooting match”, including counseling, over the intervening 10 months.

“Your brain is broken, and needs fixing. It’s no different to a broken leg.”

He says the support of health professionals, including his GP, Dr Peter Hall, was crucial but that the most valuable help came from family and friends once he began talking about it.

“I’ve read books, like John Kirwan’s, and realise the importance of telling people. I’d be angry if a friend had depression and didn’t tell me. Talking about it was the best thing, because then people began telling me how they were feeling too. So many stepped up to help.”

One of those friends is Dave Sawyer of Dynamic Martial Arts, who got Paul into his Bucket List Fighter kickboxing programme, the motto of which is “Grow a Set!”

It is designed to take business people out of their comfort zone, and turn them into fighters over a 12-week training period. They then compete in a charity fight night, which takes place on November 19 at Orewa Arts & Events Centre.

“I was seriously unfit with no motivation. I’d put on 18kg from being lazy and eating the wrong food. I had to go from that to training, and learning a new discipline, five to six days a week. It was sometimes hard just to get out of bed, so Dave had to kick my butt a lot,” Paul says.

He also took a few hard knocks, despite protective gear.

The Bucket List fight night is dedicated to supporting the Mental Health Foundation. Paul hopes that around $10,000 can be raised including from a silent auction on the night.

When he puts his newfound kickboxing skills on the line for three, two-minute rounds, Paul says he will have in mind Rodney MP Mark Mitchell’s brother Sean, who suffered from manic depression and tragically didn’t make it. In 2000, after writing a letter to his family, Sean swam into the Rangitoto Channel and was found the next day, washed up on Rangitoto Island.

“If I compare where I was 10 months ago, sitting and talking to the doctor to now, it’s drastically improved,” Paul says. “One of the first steps is that the community has to change its mindset on how mental health is seen and not be afraid to ask if people are ok. I’ve had guys tell me they are battling depression and their best mates don’t even know. On the night of the fight I’m going to encourage people to ask whoever’s next to them if they are ok.”

In future, Paul says he wants to work with Dynamic Martial Arts on ways of helping people who have similar illnesses. He hopes to find a way to support them, as someone who has come out the other side.

“That’s going to be a big part of the life that I’m going to have from here on in.”

Donations to Paul’s Bucket List Fight page go to the Mental Health Foundation.

The link is

Info and tickets for the fight at or at