SPEAK OUT: Former NRL player and boxer Joe Williams spoke to students at Shalom College on Thursday about his battle with alcohol and drug abuse, and how he gets through each day.
SPEAK OUT: Former NRL player and boxer Joe Williams spoke to students at Shalom College on Thursday about his battle with alcohol and drug abuse, and how he gets through each day. TAHLIA STEHBENS

NRL star and former boxer talks mental health in Bundy

MENTAL health and wellness is gaining more awareness, and former NRL player Joe Williams has an important message to share.

Mr Williams battled bipolar disorder and suicidal thoughts for most of his career and, following an attempt on his own life in 2012, realised he had to change.

The former sportsman spoke about his alcohol addiction and drug abuse to Shalom College students this week, saying he reached a point in his life where he simply became sick and tired of being sick and tired.

"I was sick of that lifestyle. I knew I had it in me, I just had to take away some of the negative aspects in my life,” he said.

"Drugs and alcohol were a massive band-aid for what I was really going through, so for me, when I took away alcohol and drugs it brought to the surface the real problem, and that was my mental illness and the struggles I was facing.

"It was confronting but it's just about learning acceptance for the things you have done, and through all sorts of pain comes growth, so it was just about growing as an individual and doing that literally on a day-by-day, step-by-step basis.”

Mr Williams said mental health should be addressed the same as physical health.

"When somebody breaks their leg we don't hide it,” he said.

"I live by five key values, and that's love, care, respect, humility and compassion - for yourself and other people and all things with spirit.

"In our culture we have a saying called 'nupitji nupitji', which means to always give, because if we're always giving, then everyone's receiving, so the more we give then the more we're going to receive.

"For me, my responsibility now is to continue with my nupitji nupitji and just keep implementing certain ways and programs and practices into people's lives to help them understand and live a fully functional life.”

Mr Williams said becoming a better person was a constant journey.

"I'm not anywhere near the person I want to be but I'm far from the person I was,” he said.

"It's about everyday improvements, some days I won't be at my best but I'm willing to continue to do the hard work to make sure I get there.

"Each and every single day, no matter what your well-being is at, just build on that.

"So it's just about building on those little principles, and how you do that, again it's just about that nupitji nupitji, giving to other people, living with love, care, respect, humility and compassion.”

If you or someone you know needs help, phone Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.



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