TOM O’Toole was contemplating taking his own life 30 years ago when a friend made him promise to first ring Lifeline.
The person at the other end of the suicide prevention hotline wouldn’t let the Beechworth Bakery founder off the phone.
“It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” Mr O’Toole said.
“They kept me talking and were generally concerned for my well being.
“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Lifeline.”
Now a Lifeline ambassador, the baker is driving more than 6000 kilometres in a 1930 model A Ford to raise awareness of the hotline.
Mr O’Toole will leave Beechworth tomorrow with his mate, Keith McIntosh, for the Gulf of Carpentaria, along the Birdsville Track.
It’s the third major trip the pair have made in the old Ford, with a previous trip around Australia and another to Cape York that “nearly killed” them.
“When it rains, we get wet; when it’s hot, we get hot; when the road’s dusty, we get dusty — there’s no comfort in this vehicle,” he said.
They will talk to locals in towns including Mildura, Peterborough, Mount Isa, Cloncurry and Karumba, during their three-week trip.
In the years since making the call to Lifeline, Mr O’Toole has found a new love of life and he wants to pass this message to those who might be going through what he did.
“Maybe someone will say, ‘maybe I should give them a call too’,” he said.