Exclusive: TV star Luke Patrick's battle with drinking, drugs, sickness and suicide

Warning: This article discusses suicide and mental health.

Faced with two choices, Luke Patrick was either going to change his lifestyle and make it, or not and die within six months. 

Thrashing his body at the gym during the week while drinking excessively and indulging in a dangerous drug habit on the weekend had caught up with him. 

The South Australia-born actor, cast as Frank Warner on Shortland Street, was told the dark purple circles around his eyes "didn't look good" before blacking out in 2011.

He woke up in hospital hooked up to machines, later told he had managed to drive there. 

Reality hit hard as a doctor delivered the results of his blood tests. His kidney and liver were shutting down. If he didn't act fast, at best he could see half-a-year more. If he continued abusing his body, he wouldn't make it three months. 

It was just one of a number of confronting situations the Naracoorte-native is speaking out about in a bid to encourage men to open themselves up, be vulnerable and learn from failure. 

Luke Patrick.
Luke Patrick. Photo credit: Supplied

The loss of Shortland Street co-star Pua Magasiva and three other friends, including his best mate Wade - who Patrick considered a brother - has affected him deeply. 

The grief has prompted him to speak out about his own suicide attempt, as someone who’s been through a lot and made it through. He wants others to know there is hope and support available for others struggling. 

The 33-year-old has made it out of a series of hardships, some outside of his control, others brought on by his own actions. His past has given him a deeper perspective on men's mental health after surviving turbulent and trying times as a teenager and young adult.

The seeds of his downfall were sown when Patrick was 16 years old. His mum, Joe, was showing signs she was finding it difficult to deal with trauma developed from events in her childhood. 

"I didn't really know at the time what was going on. I never really understood depression or suicide," Patrick told Newshub. "That was the start to when it all fell apart for me really." 

In 2001, he saved his mum’s life for the second time after finding her unresponsive. Patrick walked while she was in the middle of having a fit. 

Painful flashbacks trigger waves of emotion as he recalls getting her into the car, and driving her to the emergency room. 

"I rang mum's mum at the time and said you need to get up here because this is too much for me."

The doctor told the family that she would have to be flown to a mental health facility. 

He says the worst moment was seeing his mum be pushed out of the ambulance on a stretcher, strapped down, bawling her eyes out.

Patrick grew resentment for his family's circumstances and he took his frustration out on himself. 

"I spiralled out of control. I thought I was to blame. I lost all sense of self-worth and self-love. I went from there and just shut myself off," he says. 

He got heavily into drinking before turning to drugs, feeling like he was tapping into the "real Luke" while high. 

"I could function 10 times better on it than off it. At its worst, I was snorting an 8 ball (3.5 grams) of coke every day-and-a-half, mixing that with alcohol, MDMA caps," he says. 

"I was enlightened, I had a deep sense of who I was. I had activated some sort of consciousness or something that I didn't know was always there."   

Luke Patrick.
Luke Patrick. Photo credit: Supplied

At the same time, he was body-building and going to the gym, keeping up a facade that he was fit and healthy. 

"I thought if I had a good body people would appreciate me." 

He was taking testosterone boosters, different protein shakes and mixing illegal drugs with alcohol while not eating well.

Over a three-month stint, he was ingesting "a stupid amount" of supplements each day then come Friday, it was party time. 

Patrick would mix the tablets with illegal drugs and alcohol, while dealing with depression and "hating his life".

"I noticed I was getting sick when I was getting really dark circles around my eyes and just feeling off. I knew I had to start laying off everything," he says.  

Patrick was just coming away from relying on drugs when he moved to Adelaide to take up a personal training course. 

One month into attending the course, he couldn't stay awake in the day time and felt ill. 

"Some guys in the class told me I looked sick," he says. 

Patrick went and saw a holistic nurse who took blood tests. The outcome revealed he had next to no white blood cells. 

She suggested he take natural remedies and he started to feel good. But it didn't last long, eventually feeling suicidal unhappy with his health and how life was playing out. 

He says he tried to seek help from doctors but "they didn't care at all" and felt brushed aside even after telling medical staff he wouldn't make it through the week. 

Friday morning came and Patrick decided he couldn't take his internal anguish any more, becoming adamant he was going to take his own life.

He was in the process of committing suicide when he got a text from his dad, Andrew, moments before going through with it.  

"Hey my boy, keep your chin up, everything is going to work out. I love you my boy," it said. 

He tried to reason with himself, deciding to push through taking one day at a time, remembering the love he had for his dad and realising the devastation it would cause. 

'Should've been dead'
 

Patrick moved back home after injuring his back working and found himself switching between being dedicated to getting clean and relapsing. 

In 2011, at 25 years old, he went and saw a doctor who did some tests. 

"She said I should've been dead. I remember her saying to me, 'I have no idea how you're still alive.'"  

She explained his liver and kidneys were failing, but he didn't take notice at how serious it was. 

He was released and was keen to take active steps to get away from his reckless lifestyle until he went to a wedding. Patrick decided to play up and knocked back two bottles of red wine in a few hours. 

He woke up feeling "super hungover" but this time something was different.  

Two days later, he ventured out to get food from a health store when the lady behind the counter told him he didn't look good. 

The next thing Patrick remembers is waking up back in hospital. He had blacked out but managed to drive himself there.  

The doctor came straight out with it. He had a 30 percent chance at recovery. His liver and kidneys were shutting down at a rapidly, and he was told he had three to six months to live if he didn't make substantial changes. 

It was the hard-hitting wake-up call he needed to get his life back on track. 

He returned home, told his parents what was going on and that was the day, started a spiritual journey to understanding himself better. 

Luke Patrick as Frank Warner on Shortland Street.
Luke Patrick as Frank Warner on Shortland Street. Photo credit: South Pacific Pictures

Coming out of the other side of such a horrific period in his life, he decided to move to Sydney to pursue a career in acting where he met Lucas Whiting at theatre school. 

He went on to land the role of Chris Warner's son, Frank Warner, on New Zealand soap Shortland Street with some help from Whiting, who played Finn Warner. 

He was deeply gutted by the loss of co-star Pua Magasiva and has been moved to raise awareness about how hard times can get. He says he doesn't want people to feel alone in their individual journeys. 

"I've gone through all my mental stuff that's made me realise how precious being vulnerable is as a man." 

Pua Magasiva.
Pua Magasiva. Photo credit: Luke Patrick/Givealittle

He says there are many overlooked pressures of being a man and feels like the stress weighs on people. 

"A lot of men go through stages of feeling like they've just failed what it is to be a man, or failed their partner, kids, parents, society or themselves," he says. 

"There needs to be a bigger avenue for men to sit with each other and be vulnerable and feel safe about it." 

He says while asking for help might appear to not be an option at times, he urges everyone to remember "we're all in the same boat of life".

"Everyone's experience is different but you might think you're going through shit that no one else understands, or no one else gets but it's not the case," he says. 

Patrick understands it may appear too challenging to open up about problems, especially for men, but says you're not alone. 

Knowing that people often won't ask for help, he says it should be front of mind to everyone that each and every individual is looking out for one another. 

"We need to do it for everybody, not just the people we care about." 

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