MasterChef Australia’s Julie Goodwin has opened up about her mental health struggles in the years since winning the show’s inaugural season, saying her anxiety was so bad at one point she “couldn’t set foot in my kitchen” after being admitted to a mental health unit .
Goodwin, who is currently a contestant on the show’s Fans v Faves spinoff, spoke on Thursday night’s episode about her life in the 13 years since she won the first season. The 50-year-old has written six cookbooks and runs a cooking school, in addition to appearing on television and radio.
She has previously spoken about her depression and anxiety, which she has lived with “on and off over many years” before being put on medication in 2019. In 2020 she was voluntarily hospitalized for five weeks.
“I had to do some serious assessment of my mental health and wellbeing … I’d reached a point in my life where I lost my joy,” she said on Thursday night. “I had to give up my job on the radio – I couldn’t do that anymore – and I actually couldn’t set foot in my kitchen.”
She said she had worried about returning to television: “I think maybe I have done everything that I was here to do, and I have achieved everything that’s possible for me to achieve … so this for me is an opportunity to see if there’s another chapter . If there’s more.”
After winning the first challenge, Goodwin tearfully told judges that “when the phone call came to do this, I didn’t know if I could”.
“It’s been a tough couple of years, and I didn’t know if I was able to come back into this environment. My experience last time was that I fell over again and again, and I think I got to the end because every time I fell down I got back up. The phone call to come here was … it was the universe saying ‘It’s time to get back up.’”
In 2020, Goodwin wrote a detailed letter to listeners of her radio show to explain her extended absence, sharing her battle with depression and stress, and her subsequent hospitalisation.
“On the surface I know I don’t seem to be depressed or anxious. I’ve denied it to myself for a long time, and certainly put a lot of energy into making sure it wasn’t obvious to the people around me,” she wrote.
“My beautiful husband Mick, the person who loves me most, recognized the crisis I was in and took me to the emergency room. I was referred to what’s known as the acute care team, who referred me to a psychiatrist, who recommended in-patient care in a mental health unit.”
In an interview with Australian Women’s Weekly this month, Goodwin said she had been suicidal during that period.
“In the midst of that really awful time I had decided that I was done. I had nothing left to do, my work here was done. That’s where I found myself. That landed me in hospital a bunch of times,” she said.
On Thursday, she said her success on Fans v Faves made her feel that “maybe I’m not done. Maybe there’s more for me”.
She addressed viewers directly: “Everybody walks their own way through depression or anxiety. But if I had a message to give it would just be, just don’t give up.”