Over time, Juan Sepulveda lost his "spark for life" and began questioning what was "the point" of getting out of bed each day.
The onset of COVID-19 was the "last straw" for the 55-year-old from the Wollongong region, finding himself so deep in darkness it had become the norm.
"My wife was the one to tell me, 'something is happening with you, you have lost a little bit of joy in life and you need to do something'," Mr Sepulveda said.
His wife suggested an online course with MakeShift because it could be easily done at home and "if it doesn't work you lose nothing, just try".
Since the pandemic hit our country last March, two-thirds of Australians took steps to manage their mental health, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The Household Impacts of COVID-19January survey also found 21 per cent of people believed their mental health was "fair or poor" since last March; 22 per cent said their mental health was "worse or much worse" than before COVID-19; while one in four people put "more or much more priority" on their mental health in the last year.
For the 67 per cent of Australians who used strategies to manage their mental health, the most popular were: organising their home, life or other things (36 per cent), doing more of the things they enjoy (31 per cent) and practising thinking positively or setting achievable goals (30 per cent).
For Mr Sepulveda, he was able to reignite a spark through two online courses which use creative practices along with reflection and education to manage anxiety, depression and trauma.
"This dark moment I was having it slowly, slowly started to disappear," he said.
The courses dabbled in drawing, painting, sewing, gardening, cooking and music but writing was the creative outlet he needed to sift out negative thoughts from his life and invite the positive back in.
"Writing has helped me to think and connect with myself ... I started to go inside of this activity and start to see myself in another way," Mr Sepulveda said. "Once I have peace with myself then I can have peace with everyone else."
MakeShift is another COVID-19 success story after the pandemic was the kick that founders Lizzie Rose and Caitlin Marshall needed to get it off the ground.
The duo were running social enterprise Rumpus, which engaged in community skillshare programs and creative workshops which - like many other arts organisations - were shut down when the nation went into lockdown.
"We could have just gone 'oh this is too hard' and let it all dissolve but instead we redirected our energy," Ms Rose said. "GPs and psychologists were referring people to our skillshare classes and we realised it was an informal way of social prescription. So we now run all our programs around that concept of creativity as prescription."
She said creative practice could have a "massive impact" on people's physiology, nervous system and brain but many had become disconnected from it.
"The concept isn't new, it's big in the UK but is slowly emerging in Australia," Ms Rose said. "In my opinion, it's age old wisdom - it's cultural practices that have been around for a long time in this idea of making to support our wellbeing."
If we don't look after our own mental health then we can't look after the people that are around us.Annette Ruhotas
Sydney businesswoman and mother-of-three Annette Ruhotas had known about the creative Rumpus workshops for sometime, but a busy lifestyle coupled with distance prevented her from signing up. When the organisation re-emerged online Ms Ruhotas jumped at the chance to do the "ReMind" eight-week course and uncovered a new passion for playing the ukulele.
"It was a good way to force me to stop and do something for myself ... and it's exposed me to this idea that you can get joy out of everyday things," she said. "We cook every day, but for me it's a chore ... if you just smell the aromas or listen to the sizzling, or chop dinner in a mindful way those simple things can help with mental health and slowing down."
Ms Ruhotas said the "quality of her mental health" varied over her life, and hoped speaking about her experiences would help break the stigma still associated with mental health.
"If we don't look after our own mental health then we can't look after the people that are around us," she said.
About 600 people from around the country have now taken one of MakeShift's courses since they launched in July.
The courses have been taken by injured workers through WorkCover, first responders, people with disabilities under the NDIS, struggling musicians through the Support Act charity, referrals from health professionals, and everyday people who have wanted to do more for their wellbeing.
"It was the arts that got people through [the pandemic] - everyone was watching Netflix ...or were being entertained or were listening to music," Ms Rose said.
"The arts is the backbone of supporting people and it's the arts and cultural sector which is the heart beat of happiness."
MakeShift has recently joined with high profile artists like musician Bec Sandbridge, Aboriginal Woman of the Year Kirli Saunders and visual artist Josh Heath for a new podcast - In The Making - who share their own personal stories of using creativity to battle tough times.
For more details, visit: www.makeshift.org.au