It’s a scary thing when, for whatever reason, you find yourself walking a different path to others. To know that you are struggling with something that society doesn’t know how to approach. It can be isolating and lonely.
When I first thought about coming out, I was scared. I didn’t want people to treat me differently and I was raised in a religious family who I knew would struggle to accept it. The few people that did know kept telling me that once I did it, a weight would be lifted, but for me that was when the weight got heavy.
I was so scared that it would pull my family apart. It was difficult from both sides. My parents struggled to understand why I was like this and I was devastated that people I held up on a pedestal found it difficult to accept who I was in my heart. In trying to marry up the different pieces of my life, my mental health suffered.
Despite the efforts around the world to combat declining mental health and suicide, the number of people affected continues to rise. It breaks my heart every time I hear of another person taking their life because they felt so alone in the struggle they were facing.
We are so aware of the prejudice and stigma attached to our struggles that despite anything positive we see – the #illridewithyou campaign supporting Muslims after the Lindt café siege, or the rainbow flag filter on Facebook – fear of the unknown, or worse, fear of what has happened to others stops us from opening up to people.
I advocate for people from marginalised backgrounds not just because I know how it feels but because I don’t want people to look to me and think I had it easy. As a public figure, people mostly see the best of me – all dressed up, smile on. I would hate to think that other gay people look to me and think that I’ve done it easy so why can’t they.
I am also passionate about raising awareness because throughout my life I have surrounded myself with people who have overcome the barriers that forced them to approach the world from a different angle. I’ve seen these wonderful people face every challenge the world has set them and they’ve come out the other side.
My brother was born with a significant hearing impairment and has to wear hearing aids. My best friend is legally blind. And I chose Australian super model Madeline Stuart, the Australian super model breaking down barriers as the first super model with Downs syndrome, for my film clip for True Colors because she epitomises everything that song stands for.
We all have triggers. Changes to our work or financial situation, domestic abuse, generational mental health issues, any change in life we didn’t see coming can send you on a downward spiral.
If we are going to affect change and reduce the prevalence of mental health issues and suicide rates, we need to engage in meaningful conversation and create support networks. You are never alone in your struggle – there is always someone who will listen, who can guide you. It was my friends who kept me from that dark place so many others find themselves. I never imagined that simply being me could have been so hard but life is too short not to be true to yourself.