Thompson inspires many at mental health event

Manly Warringah Sea Eagles forward Joel Thompson has opened up about his battle with bipolar as part of a keynote address at an Indigenous mental health event.

Held at the MacLaurin Hall at The University of Sydney on Tuesday, October 23, the Sydney Ideas event featured Thompson, Mark Spinks (Babana Aboriginal Men's group) and Prof Ian Hickie (Brain and Mind Centre).

The three men spoke about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health and the work being done around our youth.

Thompson has started The Mindset Project, a mental-health and motivational initiative aimed to help people develop a positive view of their potential and make life choices that promote growth and well-being.

He said the university event was a chance for him to be 'real and very raw' on mental health.

"It was the first time I shared publically my battle with bipolar and the support I've had from (my) wife, family and friends over the years,'' Thompson said

"I decided to speak from the heart after finding out on (the) Sunday that I lost a family friend to suicide. It has been two friends to suicide in the last three weeks.

"It breaks my heart that we have people who continue to suffer in silence.

No more shame about it, we must own our own mental health and stop losing lives."

Jeremy Heathcote, the University's Manager for Indigenous Employment and Cultural Diversity, said the event brought together over 350 people including university staff and First Nations Communities, allowing them to hear about the challenges that are faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth.

"Joel Thompson has been an active member of the Aboriginal community for a number of years and the work that he has done particularly for our youth made him an ideal person for this year's keynote speaker,'' Heathcote said.

"As a proud Ngiyampaa man, Joel was able to engage with the audience and, alongside Mark, was able to show that there is hope for our young people.

"Joel inspired the audience with his personal journey and spoke about his bipolar – this showed the strength of Joel and it inspired so many people in the audience.

"The National Rugby League and Manly should be proud to have someone like Joel involved. He has proven that he is not only a great player on the field, but a man of the people who is dedicated to changing lives off it."

John Hutchinson – Education, Training and Employment Manager at the NRL, said Thompson was an 'outstanding' ambassador for the game.

"Joel was very honest and very raw. He told his story with no filters and many who attended that night connected with him,'' Hutchinson said.

"What I liked though is by him telling his story in such a powerful way he gave others permission to seek help and pointers on where to go.

"He was later swamped by people wanting to talk to him. He is a real credit and asset to the Manly Club."