Joe Williams speaks out about the pandemic and its effects on community wellbeing

Joe Williams
Joe Williams

COVID-19 has been hard for all, but for those whose worst enemy lies within their own minds the effects of the pandemic have been astronomical.

Former NRL player and mental health advocate, Joe Williams, who battles bipolar disorder and has previously dealt with substance abuse and suicidality, said positive thinking has been key to managing his well being.

He is encouraging others to focus on the "small victories".

"Just try to do the little things," Mr Williams said.

"The tiniest of actions can have the biggest of impacts.

"That could be moderate exercise, body weight exercises at home, going for a walk and getting your heart rate up, just getting yourself moving. Also, pay attention to the food you eat, and the things you choose not to do, like drinking alcohol or eating unhealthily."

Mr Williams said the pandemic came a sign to him to 'slow down'.

"I don't want to say it's been a positive, but the whole experience has taught me the importance of family," he said.

"Living more closely with each other and spending more time at home means thinking more about our own words, actions and behaviours."

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As a proud Wiradjuri and Wolgalu man who, following his retirement from the NRL in 2008, has become a prominent spokesperson and community leader, particularly on issues relating to mental health and suicide in First Nations communities.

Mr Williams is also drawing extra attention to the wellbeing of the indigenous community.

"I believe culture and the spirit of community and survival within First Nations communities are significant factors when it comes to how communities are coping with the pandemic," he said.

"We're a deeply communal people. How I speak about it in communities is, it's not our mental health, it's our spiritual health, so we've got to look at things to heal our spirit. Again, doing the tiny things, taking our shoes off and connecting to the earth, living by the values embedded in the old stories - love, humility, care - all of those things."

Mr Williams' message to those struggling with their mental health is that it is ok to reach out for help

For anyone who needs support with their social and emotional wellbeing, call the coronavirus mental wellbeing support line on 1800 512 348 to speak with someone who can help.

This story Turning a battle with bipolar and depression during coronavirus into a positive first appeared on Daily Liberal.