Mind

Courtney Allan

Peter Helliar breaks down in tears on The Project

Peter Helliar breaks down in tears on The Project

The Project co-host and comedian Peter Helliar has shown a softer side as he was overcome with emotion on last night’s episode of the news show.

Helliar did a story about his friend and former radio co-host Richard Marsland, who took his own life back in 2008.

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,” Helliar shared.

“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.”

The segment had interviews from Marsland’s family and other people in the industry, including Sunrise weather presenter Sam Mac, who 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,” Mac 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 added, “And he's certainly so missed. And as Sam said, you play things back over [in] your head, and that just doesn't go away.”

After the segment, Helliar was staring at his desk intently instead of facing the cameras and co-host Waleed Aly asked, “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.

“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.”

If you are troubled by this article, experiencing a personal crisis or thinking about suicide, you can call Lifeline 131 114 or beyondblue 1300 224 636 or visit lifeline.org.au or beyondblue.org.au.