Peter Helliar has broken down in tears on The Project as he revealed the heartbreaking story behind his former radio co-host’s suicide.
On Tuesday, the 44-year-old was overcome with emotion after his story about Richard Marsland’s death in 2008 went to air.
After the segment, Helliar was seen staring down at his desk instead of facing the cameras, with his co-host Waleed Aly asking: ‘You OK, mate?’
‘Yeah. Um … We need to keep talking about it [mental illness]. We need to keep listening,’ Helliar replied with his voice shaking.
‘Rich was more than a mate. He was family,’ The Project’s Peter Helliar recalled the heartbreaking moment Richard Marsland (pictured) took his own life
‘Um… Uh, only a few people knew … um, about Richard’s history. I don’t begrudge him not sharing that, or his family not letting us know at all,’ he said.
‘But hopefully, 11 years on, we know how to have those conversations and we are better at having them.’
Richard Marsland – an Australian comedian, actor and radio personality – took his own life at age 32.
Helliar, Marsland and Myf Warhurst hosted Triple M’s Melbourne breakfast show.
The former SA FM and Channel 31 reporter had a thriving comedy career when his loved ones learned of the news which was ‘just such a shock’.
In the segment, Helliar paid tribute to his former co-host who he described as ‘one of the happiest, friendliest people’ he knew.
‘Rich was more than a mate. He was like family,’ he said.
‘Rich was always smiling. I thought he was always happy, but I was wrong.’
The segment initially aimed to highlight the mental health crisis in Australia.
‘We’ve come a long way when it comes to our understanding of mental illness. Yet every day on average, eight Australians still take their lives,’ Helliar said.
‘Every day, about 10 million Australians wake up with brekkie radio. Along with an incredible comedian called Richard Marsland, 10 years ago I was lucky enough to be part of a brekkie radio team.’
Downcast: The 44-year-old host was unable to hold back his tears after recalling Richard Marsland’s death in December 2008
‘Rich was always smiling’: The segment about Marsland’s life aimed to highlight the mental health crisis in Australia
He has also co-hosted daily morning program AM Adelaide on Channel 7 and then hosted The Late Show nationally with Bessie Bardot on 2DayFM, 92.9 and FoxFM.
Marsland has also made television appearances on shows such as Rove Live, Newstopia and The Glass House.
He wrote a weekly column for Adelaide’s The Sunday Mail.
Speaking to Richard’s mother, Ally Marsland, she recalled how she first caught her son attempting to take his own life when he was just 22.
‘We found him upstairs. He tried to take his life that Friday. We had absolutely no idea. It was just such a shock,’ she said.
‘But he got help and he got better. And he resumed a normal life and we kind of thought that he was – was over it.
‘We’re not better off without Rich. I’m not better off without my son.’
‘And he’s certainly so missed’: Helliar spoke to Richard’s parents about his mental health battles
One December 5, he was meant to have dinner with his former colleague Tony Martin and friends at a pub but never showed up.
Marsland’s body was found by a park ranger in Victoria’s Dandenong Ranges on December 6, 2008.
‘Told him I loved him. He said the same thing back. You become like family. You get really close,’ Helliar told Marsland’s parents.
Marsland co-hosted Triple M’s Melbourne breakfast show with Helliar before his death
Sunrise weather presenter Sam Mac described Marsland as ‘universally loved’.
‘He didn’t have an enemy. In an industry that can be quite harsh and competitive and ”watch your back”, he was so supportive and caring,’ he said.
‘You kind of play back conversations in your mind or moments in your mind. You try and think, ”Could I potentially have helped someone in some way or let him know that…” Yeah, it’s still very raw.’
Helliar said: ‘And he’s certainly so missed. And as Sam said, you play things back over your head, and that just doesn’t go away.’
For confidential support in Australia Lifeline 13 11 14 www.lifeline.org.au or Mensline: 1300 789 978
Co-host Carrie Bickmore sympathised with Helliar as he broke down on television