'You get off on it': Duncan Garner's stern message to bullies

As Mental Health Awareness Week wraps up, Duncan Garner has opened up about his own experience with harassment, and has a stern message for bullies. 

"Like many of you, I have close friends who have suffered depression, I know people who have taken their own life, and none of their symptoms you could spot," he told The AM Show on Friday. 

"First of all, to the bullies of the school grounds or the classroom: think twice, and now stop it, because people live in fear of you, and you are seriously ruining their lives, and you get off on it."

'You get off on it': Duncan Garner's stern message to bullies
Photo credit: Newshub

The AM Show host reflected on his own experience with bullying, which he "still remembers vividly".

"I'll never forget being bullied badly in form two at Northcote Intermediate School," he said. "Two guys targeted me for quite some time. One walked me for 20 minutes home in a headlock all the way once."

Garner said the experience had a significant impact on his work at school. He said he "kept throwing sickies" after the bullying occurred, out of fear of facing the bullies again. 

Online bullying, something which Garner did not grow up with, is also having an impact on young people today, he said. His message to online bullies: "Would you actually like this? And how would you cope with it?"

The economic cost of online bullying in New Zealand is an estimated $444 million a year, a new report commissioned by NetSafe shows.  

Garner said ditching Twitter has meant he no longer gets "wound up by some idiot posing as 'Anonymous Hitman'." 

He likened his online confrontations to "jelly-wrestling, basically, with fresh air".

"It was a complete waste of my life," he said. 

Garner wrapped up his monologue with advice for people who feel stuck in life: take opportunities when they come along. If you're depressed and need to change, he said, you "need to seek opportunity and take it".

He reflected on his own career, and how taking an opportunity that was offered to him changed his life significantly. 

"I was 38, I'd worked in Parliament for 17 years, and I'd become like them: mean, combative, cynical and I drank too much. I had to get out. The thought of moving to radio scared the bejeesus out of me."

"I ran into a senior radio host from another radio station a week before my first day on radio. He was not very gracious at all," he added, reflecting on the man's discouraging message to Garner that going into radio would not be a good move for him. 

"I thought, here's this man who's had this brilliant career, and he couldn't be nice, encouraging or even kind," Garner said. 

"It only motivated me. My father would have been furious to have heard that this happened - he was this man's age and my dad was a kind, loving and supportive man."

"Yes, I could have stayed doing what I knew, but opportunity came along, I took it, and realized it rarely comes a second time."

"I'm pleased I did it."

'You get off on it': Duncan Garner's stern message to bullies
Photo credit: Newshub