R U OK? Ambassador Rob Mills on the Importance Of Staying Connected

Rob Mills (by Cameron Grayson)

Actor, singer and host, Rob Mills, is no stranger to riding the waves of anxiety and depression, especially following his rise to fame in 2003.

Entertaining people for a living is extremely fulfilling but can take an equally hard toll on your mental health. Mills has undertaken a lot of self-work in order to achieve his current positive state of mental health.

“I’ve done a lot of work on myself over the last few years — probably five years,” he told TheLatch—. “[And] more so with a psychotherapist over the last couple of years”

Mills is an ambassador for mental health organisation, R U OK?, and is passionate about bringing this conversation out into the open.

“I like to think that this forced slowdown is also a forced look at yourself,” he said.

“Maybe it’s time you had those honest chats with a friend or with a family member that you’ve been putting off.”

TheLatch— chatted to Mills about how he’s navigating this tricky time and the importance of staying connected, especially now.

Alexandra McCarthy: Hi, Rob! This is a pretty tough time for everyone. How have you been going?

Rob Mills: I’ve been going alright! I mean, good and bad. All of my work has been basically cancelled for the year. I had a show coming up, I was going to do a brand new musical called Midnight.

Also, I live off some corporate work throughout the year — whether it’s MC-ing or hosting or singing in a band — I get a fair bit of that work throughout the year so that’s all gone.

In entertainment, we have these ups and downs and ebbs and flows. Sometimes you have a really good year and then that can see you through, you know, six months or a year.

I finished [filming] Neighbours in December so I was planning on doing some gigs of my own and working on some projects so what its actually done is given me the time to do those projects.

But I’m pretty good. My partner (journalist Georgie Tunny) is working five days a week still and she’s still thankfully got a job so the normality is still there.

I’m quite extroverted so I miss contact with other people. Also, I miss hugs. But thankfully I’ve got my partner and I’m feeling incredibly lucky that she moved in January.

AM: How’s your mental health been at this time?

RM: As far as my mental health, really good. I’ve done a lot of work on myself over the last few years — probably five years — [and] more so with a psychotherapist over the last couple of years, so we had a chat on Wednesday and I actually feel great.

For the first time, I haven’t felt anxiety or pressure and I think it helps maybe being in a team with Georgie, or just doing the work on myself, realising that this too shall pass.

“For the first time, I haven’t felt anxiety or pressure.”

AM: What are some of the steps you’re taking to prioritise your mental health?

RM: I went for a walk this morning, I try to get out for a walk in the morning. There’s so many online workouts now that are free so I cancelled my gym membership, I think two months ago just before the lockdown happened and there’s so many gym sessions that you can do online.

Even if it’s a workout with a friend on Facetime, you both join in the same workout, I think that’s a really good way of having a catch up with a mate as well.

But even if its as simple as going for a walk, trying to get into a park area where there’s trees or nature. I don’t know the scientific term of it but it just makes you feel good. I know they’ve done research that says being in nature makes you feel good and I’m in the CBD so I’m looking at concrete a lot but fortunately we have so many beautiful parks and the Yarra, I mean, it’s brown but it’s still water.

If I was in Sydney or Brisbane, I’d get out as much as possible. All around the country, there’s so much beauty to be seen.

And, I don’t really drink a lot but minimising alcohol at this time is really beneficial. Alcohol is a depressant so if you’re wondering why you don’t feel great the next day, it’s because it’s a depressant.

So, minimising alcohol is a really good way to get through this. I’m not saying cut it out completely, if you like a drink, have a drink.

I had a whisky on Saturday night, I had a couple of glasses of wine throughout the week but never more than one or two glasses just because I know the benefits of not drinking too much now. You can still stay connected with your friends by having one or two.

AM: How are you staying connected with people around you, like friends, family and neighbours?

RM: We had a Zoom with my family last night, which was interesting [laughs]. My cousin Kelly organised that and she basically ran it almost like a meeting.

She muted everyone after a while and then just took questions, like questioned different aunties and uncles and cousins like ‘What have you guys been up to?’

So that was kinda cool. It was weird but it was really good just to see everyone — and the babies — was pretty heartwarming, so I loved that.

The other night my neighbour dropped over a Corona for me and an Aperol Spritz for Georgie, so that was lovely. Then he went back to his place and we enjoyed a beer together over Facetime.

I have been enjoying the Zoom chats with mates — there’s talk of doing a trivia night soon with some of my friends so that should be fun!

AM: What do you think we can learn from this forced slowdown?

RM: I like to think that this forced slowdown is also a forced look at yourself. It’s the time where you should be holding up a mirror to yourself and to your relationships with yourself, with your partner.

I think a lot of people will be questioning what it is they do in their life, who they are and that’s quite daunting. That’s not an easy task.

If you’ve been putting this off for such a long time [and] you’re then in a room with your partner and your kids, or even if you’re just by yourself, there’s no distractions.

There’s no going to the footy, there’s no going to the pub, there’s no escaping it. It’s just you and your thoughts.

So I think that now is a great time to start journaling, meditating, working out all the things that make you, you. Whether you do the work through a psychologist or psychotherapist or counsellor.

Maybe it’s time you had those honest chats with a friend or with a family member that you’ve been putting off. I think now is a really good time to do that work. To be more honest with those around you and be more honest with yourself.

“It’s the time where you should be holding up a mirror to yourself and to your relationships.”

Be more direct. It’s scary. It’s really, really scary but I think at the end of this lockdown, what I’m hoping is for a kinder, more resilient and more honest and generous species. That’s what I’m hoping.

And people with less anxiety, because I think a lot of the anxiety comes from the ignoring of the thoughts and the feelings that maybe we’ve had so when you can address all these things, even if you just acknowledge them.

It could be as easy as a task you’ve been putting off. I think now is the time to do the work on yourself and put the time into the relationship with you and the relationship with your partner and your kids.

I think that a lot of people will work out that the job that they’re in they don’t love anymore or that they really love this job and how can I make it better?

Rob Mills and Barry Conrad
Rob Mills with fellow R U OK? ambassador Barry Conrad in 2015.

AM: You mentioned that you’ve been going for walks and virtually catching up with friends and family. What else have you been getting up to in isolation? 

RM: So I’m working on an online singing show that I created with a mate of mine, which we sort of rushed to market on Instagram called Homegrown Superstars.

We’re giving away $500 a week to a weekly winner — so $250 to the winner and $250 to a charity of their choice because we charities are doing it pretty tough at the moment as well.

I’ve had my friends Casey Donovan, Vanessa Amorosi and now we’ve had Kate Ceberano come on board, so every week there’s a new celebrity singer and they set the theme for the week. It’s been great!

It’s all going really well and that’s been fun to watch people create on Instagram and trying to find the new homegrown superstar, which is kind of cool.

[I’m] just creating some projects and working on a podcast. I’ve been putting off writing a one-man show, so I’ve been putting in the time to do that, and playing a lot more guitar and I’ve got a piano in my house that I borrowed from a friend so I’ve just been tinkering and singing.

And obviously catching up on TV series and movies with my partner, which has been great as well. 

AM: If people are struggling, how can they reach out and ask for help?

RM: R U OK? has got a great website and they’ve got professional support services and self-care tools on there, so they can definitely guide you in the right direction.

R U OK? doesn’t just work one day a year (on R U OK? Day) it is all year round. The focus at the moment is [to] stay connected.

Except for all those introverts out there, they must be so productive right now [laughs]. 

I don’t think anyone is 100%, either way, an extrovert or introvert, but you still need to pepper your time with contact, people and energy from other sources. 

R U OK? Day is a national day of action, held on the second Thursday of September each year (September 10, 2020). But every day is the day to start a conversation. Conversation tips and crisis numbers can be found at www.ruok.org.au.

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