Rob Kipa-Williams, star of Home and Away, has boldly utilised his position to talk about his own mental health in order to make others feel less alone – and to raise awareness of what people go through in their darkest moments.
The actor has collaborated with Metro.co.uk for our Mental Health Awareness Week Takeover, and in this interview, he discusses the significance of speaking out, how males are pressured to conform when it comes to mental health, and the development of the app Feel, which he launched to aid others.
Is it critical that individuals feel comfortable and encouraged to speak up?
I believe it is critical, and I believe it is even more critical to share in a secure setting.
Do you believe there is additional pressure on guys to conform to the image of being “tough and strong” that prevents some guys from speaking out?
This, I believe, is the case, particularly coming from New Zealand. We’ve been taught not to display our feelings. As a male, one of the things I strive to communicate as a person and via my acting is an authentic blend of being capable but also being willing to be vulnerable, which I believe is a type of strength in and of itself.
How difficult was it for you to open up about your depression? Was there any sense of relaxation afterward?
I have, and I believe the relief comes from realising who you are. It’s a path of allowing yourself to shine light on the dark aspects of yourself that hurt or are hurting. Only then can we gain a new perspective that allows us to see new ways of being in the world.
Can you describe your depressive experiences in as much detail as you feel comfortable doing so?
At my lowest point, I contemplated leaving this world. It’s a fairly dark place when the walls feel like they’re closing in on you and you believe no one else would notice if you were gone. As I’ve grown older, I’ve realised that our thoughts shape our reality.
Learning to limit my thoughts, limit the reactionary nature of those ideas, and ask myself if they are serving me was the most difficult difficulty I faced. To cultivate tolerance and acceptance of yourself and others, to choose various more empowering thoughts, to feed and give strength to better quality thoughts that serve and empower me, and to feed and give rise to better quality thoughts that serve and empower me. To perfect this, you need instruction, and I was fortunate enough to have a guide and mentor who helped me learn how to accomplish it.
My life has changed dramatically since learning these principles, and I am now blessed with abundant options and the capacity to make more informed judgments about what serves me best and makes me happy.
When did you realise you needed to reclaim control? And what steps did you take to get there?
I believe we are frequently locked in behaviours, conditioning, or old trauma from our childhood. When I was at my lowest, a friend suggested that I visit Bert McCarthy, a spiritual healer and mentor from Horeke, Northland, New Zealand. Bert taught me how to meditate in his own special way, and all he asked was that I do it every morning and night. That’s what I did, and day by day and week by week, that basic approach began to make me feel better. This practise made me feel “better,” and it started to lead me to higher-quality ideas and a more positive outlook.
What effect did the emotions have on your day-to-day life?
Prior to meditation and Bert’s teaching, my emotions pretty much ran my life, and not for the best at the time. I was able to obtain a more empowering perspective on how my ideas and feelings influenced my mental condition over time.
What kind of location do you think you’re in as a person right now?
From an objective standpoint, I feel pretty balanced and capable of dealing with obstacles. I’m connected to myself and can control my internal monologue; it takes practise, and I’m not perfect, but I used to be at the mercy of my ideas. My feelings and thoughts have just occurred to me. It does take a level of conscious thought to identify bad ideas or decide not to react to something. However, I am not swept away by the emotion of a poor real-life event these days, and I have discovered that I may achieve peace by choosing calm. That was something I didn’t have previously.
You’ve put your past experiences to good use by launching the Feel app, which is a fantastic project. Could you tell me more about it and how well it’s going?
When Covid first launched last year, I soft-released the Feel App, and there are so many more features I’d like to add to its toolkit.
The Feel App is being utilised by Northland Sports in New Zealand’s upper North Island to keep teammates, coaches, and families informed on how the sports teams are coping with life. The app itself informs users of how their friends are feeling so that they can offer help if necessary. It’s also utilised in a variety of countries around the world.
The meditation practise I stated before is the next phase of development that is about to begin. It’s great that Bert’s methods will be available to folks who aren’t being mentored by him. This meditation series is especially intriguing and unusual because it is a Polynesian meditation series. Opetaia Foa’i, who also composed the music for the Moana movie soundtrack, is in charge of the music. Six Polynesian languages have been translated into the guided meditation.
New Zealand has an alarmingly high suicide rate, and my country has had a long history of sadness and suicide. In the developed world, New Zealand has by far the greatest rate of youth suicide.
I was meditating one day and then chose to watch the Moana movie (againhaha) when it occurred to me that the music had made me feel in a manner I couldn’t articulate.
So I reasoned that perhaps our Polynesian forefathers’ languages, voices, sounds, and instruments could aid in the healing of this awful challenge. I am confident that this meditation series, which is also available in English, will be beneficial to Polynesian and other cultures.
What are your thoughts on social media and mental health in general?
It is, in my opinion, unhealthy. For living a perfect life or having the perfect figure, validation is granted. As an actor on a show with a large audience, we are constantly subjected to the opinions of others, and many fans have difficulty distinguishing between who I am and who I play.
I believe that if I hadn’t learned to meditate, I would have been more susceptible to despair, anxiety, and gloomy thoughts. On social media, people appear to have a filter that would not exist if they were standing in front of the person they are referring to.
I and the other Parata boys have been racially harassed, abused, and told we’re bad actors, as well as receiving insults about our culture, lives, and look. When it comes to our culture, cruel statements hurt more and land harder than ones directed at us.
I believe that social media has bred keyboard warriors, online bullies, and people who don’t think before they type.
Is it true that creating and releasing Feel has been therapeutic for you?
Of course, it has; my brother and a few pals use the Feel App on a daily basis, and I get notified when they are down, and vice versa.