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Pictured: Blake Hucker, who tragically took his life in March
The family of a young man who took his own life have revealed his tragic downward spiral after he was preyed on as a teenager – as they pledge to help fight the stigma surrounding male mental health.
Blake Hucker, 22, died in the backyard of his family home in Geelong, southwest of Melbourne, on March 22 – seven years after he was allegedly groomed and sexually assaulted during his horticulture apprenticeship at the age of 15.
‘There was a ten-year age gap between them,’ his older brother Jordan Hucker, 24, told Daily Mail Australia.
‘This man was also into horticulture and he took Blake to shows and things – they had a lot of similar interests and he posed himself as a supportive colleague.’
Two years after the alleged abuse began, a colleague saw an incident between the pair and reported it to HR, and eventually to the police.
Blake’s family said a police report was filed but there was insufficient evidence of grooming or sexual assault, so the man was never charged and the teenager tried to persevere in the workplace – with his alleged abuser.
The teenager went from being a ‘happy and loveable’ boy to someone who was angry, aloof and deeply sad – who would punch walls in frustration and self-harm to cope with the awful things that happened to him.
His brother and aunt Renee Schwidlewski want to share Blake’s story to try and help others who have been sexually abused, or struggle with mental health.
‘If Blake’s story can help even one person, then sharing his situation is worth it,’ Mr Hucker said.
Blake Hucker was allegedly groomed and sexually assaulted when he was 15. He is pictured with his younger cousin
Blake Hucker’s mother Vanessa (pictured together) tried everything she could to keep her son alive
‘There’s a massive health stigma in males and a culture that tells you to be tough – that men deal with issues themselves – if you need help, you’re not a man.
‘I think that’s changing now, but mental health still isn’t widely talked about, and I think my brother felt ashamed.’
Ms Schwidlewski said her nephew felt weak and tried to compensate by obsessively going to the gym, ‘he thought it might help protect him from future attacks,’ she added.
She added: ‘Reach out, talk about it, don’t be ashamed. Mental health is not biased.’
Blake’s battle began when he left school at 15 to pursue his dream of a career in horticulture – his dyslexia, a learning disability, made it hard for him to keep his grades up in class, and plants were his passion.
But the teenager’s excitement turned to terror when one of his co-workers allegedly started grooming and sexually abusing him in 2015.
Jordan Hucker (pictured with his brother Blake and mother Vanessa) said Blake was quiet about his struggles and could ‘flick a switch’ and convince everyone he was OK
Pictured, left to right: Blake’s mother Vanessa, his grandfather, Blake, his grandmother, and his aunt Renee.
From there, Blake’s life spiralled out of control.
He was diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder and had to leave his dream job behind for a new role at a water company – but he was distracted, traumatised, and couldn’t hold down a job.
His parents Scott and Vanessa Hucker took him to therapy while Ms Schwidlewski, who works in disability care, booked him in to see psychiatrists and sexual assault experts.
His family believe the treatments helped, but Blake was notoriously quiet about his struggles because he didn’t want to ‘burden’ anyone else with his issues.
The young man became obsessed with the gym and he began to self-medicate.
Blake (pictured as a baby with his father) was a happy child who struggled at school. He loved horticulture and left school 15 to pursue his dream
Blake is pictured as a teenager with his cousin, Ari. He later developed a drug addiction and an obsession with going to the gym
‘He fell in with the wrong crowd,’ Ms Schwidlewski said.
‘He got into steroids – he bulked up and became really fit, but steroids don’t leave you in a good headspace, and he started on hard drugs when he was about 18.’
What began as recreational drug taking as a way of forgetting about his alleged abuse quickly became a full-blown methamphetamine addiction – which tragically evolved into drug-induced schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder.
Schizophrenia is a chronic mental illness where the sufferer experiences hallucinations and delusions. Frequent drug use can trigger schizophrenia in people who are already susceptible to the condition.
Borderline personality disorder impacts the way people think and feel about themselves and others, and can cause problems managing emotions. Some sufferers experience paranoia, along with risky and impulsive behaviour.
Mr Hucker, Blake’s older brother, said he realised the teen was having hallucinations when they were at home alone together one afternoon while their parents were out.
Blake (pictured holding his cousin Ari) tried to hide his struggles from his family because he didn’t want to ‘burden’ them
‘Blake told me there were people watching him from a stake-house in the estate across from us, and then he described a place that did not look like the estate across from us,’ he recalled.
‘It was scary and delusional, so after that he worked extensively with a psychiatrist and and took anti-psychotic medication until the end.’
His family stressed that Blake was never violent towards anyone aside from himself – both during the height of his addiction, and while he dealt with his mental health struggles when he sobered up after going to rehab.
He decided to become a drug and alcohol counsellor to help others in his position but, even with a promising career in sight, he couldn’t undo the damage.
Blake’s mental health issues were manageable but would be a life-long problem, and he owed enormous amounts of money to banks, loan operators and – terrifyingly – drug dealers and bikie gangs.
Blake’s family would like to set up an organisation to help other people who are struggling with their mental health
Mr Hucker and Ms Schwidlewski were unsure about the exact amount owed, but they estimated it to be significantly higher than the $20,000 loan his parents took out to pay everyone back.
‘He became obsessed with jewellery and war memorabilia, he wanted to make it and sell it, and he would go on spending sprees buying things for everyone with money he didn’t have,’ Ms Schwidlewski said.
Mr Hucker added: ‘He took out large and unsecured personal loans to help pay off family members who he borrowed money from, had IOUs with drug dealers and used our parents’ credit card to buy things.’
Even after he died, the family were receiving packages of jewellery that he ordered weeks ago.
To help cover Blake’s debts, the family set up a Go Fund Me campaign.
His mother Vanessa (pictured together on his 21st birthday) made him promise that he wouldn’t hurt himself
While he largely kept his struggles to himself, he did frequently tell his mother that he didn’t ‘want to live anymore’.
‘His goal was to live to 22, but his parents wanted to push him out further,’ his aunt said.
At one stage, Blake’s mother said to her youngest son: ‘Promise me you won’t take your life.’
He replied: ”I love you too much, Mum. I would never want to hurt you like that.’
Ms Schwidlewski believes her nephew intended to keep that promise, and says his mother tried everything she could to keep him alive, but his internal struggles were too much.
When Ms Schwidlewski was asked whether she believes her nephew’s mental health would have deteriorated if he hadn’t allegedly been abused, she said: ‘No. I don’t.’
On March 22, Blake bought a carton of cigarettes, ordered some jewellery, and asked his mother for $40 via text.
Blake’s family want to encourage anyone who is strugglign with their mental health to reach out to someone. Blake is pictured with his mother
Blake Hucker loved horticulture and had a greenhouse full of exotic plants. He took his life next to the greenhouse (pictured)
Mrs Hucker usually finished work, went home, gave Blake a hug and asked about his day – but on that Tuesday, she told him she was going to be late.
That evening, the Huckers called Blake downstairs for dinner – but he didn’t come.
His father went to check on him, but knew something was wrong when he saw his son’s extensive jewellery collection placed neatly on his bed.
When Mrs Hucker heard her husband scream from the backyard, she ran outside and saw the father-of-two fruitlessly trying to save their son’s life – but he was already gone.
Ms Schwidlewski recalled: ‘At 10.09pm, I got a text from his dad that said: “He’s done it, Renee.”
‘By the time we got there, he was covered in a blanket and police were everywhere. We sat with him, and we held his hand – which was cold.’
They remembered Blake as a loving person who did his best to look out for the people around him.
‘Even when he hid his struggles from everyone – that was his way of looking out for us all,’ his aunt said.
‘He never stopped caring about the people around him – even through his struggle with mental illness.’
In memorial of Blake, the family are looking at creating an organisation to help people in need.
Ms Schwidlewski said she would like to encourage people with mental of physical impairments to contact the National Disability Insurance Scheme for financial support.
Lifeline 13 11 14
Beyond Blue 1300 224 636
MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78