Dispelling stigma around mental health issues helps those suffering seek help, and Phillip Thompson AFIML, 2018 Queensland Young Australian of the Year, R U Ok? Ambassador and special projects manager for selectability, has dedicated himself to that cause.
Phillip Thompson has made it his personal mission to break the stigmas associated with mental illness. More than eight years ago, at the age of 20, the former serving soldier was wounded in Afghanistan, while serving with the First Battalion Royal Australian Regiment.
Thompson, of Townsville, suffered a traumatic brain injury, lost hearing in his right ear and was diagnosed with mental illness.
The experience and his road to “wellbeing” dramatically changed his life and outlook. Once Thompson started to work again, he threw himself into philanthropy, volunteering and advocacy work for people who have a mental illness, and those affected by suicide.
His dedication earnt him the accolade of 2018 Queensland Young Australian of the Year and led him to being chosen as an ambassador for well-being and suicide prevention organisation R U Ok? . He was also appointed as the organisation’s Special Projects Manager for Selectability.
“Friends of mine from the service have died by suicide and I think it’s important for me to advocate for them and for people who are still struggling,” he said.
He is honoured to be an R U Ok? ambassador and says the role is a perfect fit, as the organisation’s mission to reduce the stigma of mental illness and stop suicide aligns with his personal values.
“I am a hands-on ambassador,” he says. “I try to do all of it every day. I try and lead by example because in the veterans’ space, veterans under the age of 30 have a higher risk of dying by suicide than the general public.
“Townsville has the largest veteran arena in the southern hemisphere and the largest veteran cohort per capita in Australia. With R U OK?, what I do every single day is talk about suicide prevention, where to get help and how to break the stigma.”
Thompson’s role as Special Projects Manager for Selectability involves handling the organisation’s special projects. These can involve anything from organising government grants to project works; like a recent initiative that involved sourcing a building to create a purpose-built clubhouse to help teach workforce skills to people suffering from mental illness.
Thompson says it is important to him to lead a meaningful life. “Everyone asks, ‘How do we reduce stigma and how do we slow rates of suicide and combat mental illness?’ I think it’s about having purpose and meaningful engagement,” he said.
“Also, I think that’s what gets me out of bed. I get out of bed because if I don’t, I feel more friends of mine could succumb to their wars within.” LM