Queensland-born singer Luke Antony will act as an ambassador for mental health and suicide prevention charity R U OK? at this year’s Sydney Mardi Gras parade.
“I grew up in Townsville in North Queensland which is a small town, and my family is Christian, so we went to church every single Sunday,” Antony said.
“I discovered from a young age that I was quite different to a lot of the other people around me. I didn’t really have a name for it but it turns out I was gay.”
He said that he “can’t count” the amount of times he “prayed to be straight” when he was younger.
“You didn’t see anyone gay where I was from, and there would be negative reactions from my family… It was a really scary concept,” he said.
“Find someone to talk to. I sometimes still struggle to talk to people like my family about boyfriends just because I know they don’t quite understand.
“Finding people that are in a similar situation or that you know unconditionally love you and love every part of you to talk to, that’s the most powerful thing that I could’ve done and that would be my advice.
Everyone needs that, it’s so important to surround yourself with people who build you up and love you for you.
“I want to help anyone who might be young and scared, to know life does get better and it’s okay to just be who you are, despite what others may be telling you.”
Singer Casey Donovan and actor Steven Oliver will join Antony in representing R U OK? in their second ever float in the Sydney Mardi Gras parade.
Around 80 choreographed dancers, staff and ambassadors for the charity will march behind the float, which this year is themed “Listen with Love,” named after the charity’s second step to starting a conversation with anyone you’re worried about.
The steps are: 1 – Ask, 2 – Listen, 3 – Encourage action and 4 – Check in.
R U OK? Day, held on the second Thursday in September, reminds everyone to connect with family, friends and colleagues to help anyone who may be struggling with life’s problems or mental health issues.
CEO Brendan Maher said the charity wants to remind the LGBTIQ community to ask others “Are you okay?” not just on R U OK? Day, but all year round.
He said Mardi Gras is one of the many ways the charity is attempting to tackle LGBTIQ suicide rates via awareness and education.
“This is an event that brings the community together to celebrate strength, unity and diversity – things that make Australia great,” he said.
“What better platform to remind everyone of the importance to regularly check-in on your mates and loved ones? We know LGBTIQ youth suicide rates are up to five times higher than that of their peers.
“We want our presence [at Mardi Gras] to be a visual reminder to look out for the signs that someone might be doing it tough. We want people to learn the skills and have the confidence to know how to approach a mate or a loved one in a meaningful way.”
More information about asking “R U OK?” is available from the charity’s website. If you need someone to talk to, help is available from QLife on 1800 184 527 or online at QLife.org.au, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.