Growing up in rural Oregon, USA, Richard often felt like he didn’t belong.
“I kid you not - everybody around me seemed to know I was gay even before I did - and they didn’t like it. I was bullied every day between the ages of 11 and 17. It went far beyond verbal abuse: I was terrorized, threatened, spat on and punched more times than I can remember. But I do remember. And it’s nearly impossible to forget.
I share you this not to get pity or to make people feel sorry for me, but hopefully to empower them. Being bullied effects every part of your psychological wellbeing: you feel alone, ashamed, victimised, weak, helpless, and guilty thinking perhaps you deserve it. I had no one to talk about this with so I carried it inside me for years and years.
It should come as no surprise that 61 percent of LGBTIQ+ people are verbally harassed, some of them suffer physical abuse. And growing up, even though this happened to me, I didn’t confide in anyone for help. I was so ashamed - that I was weak, embarrassed, confused. I retreated into myself, hoping to fade into the woodwork. At home, I told no one for fear of being rejected. I became paranoid, suspicious, disconnected and resentful. My self-worth was below minus. Thankfully, I never considered ending my life. My solution was to keep my head low until I could escape small town life. But the armor and defensiveness never left me.
After I left home, the best way to numb these feelings: ALCOHOL and plenty of it.
I was the first one at the bar and the last to leave. So instead of waking up each morning feeling crappy about myself, I would wake up HUNG OVER and feeling crappy about myself."
It wasn’t until Richard was in his late twenties when he finally sought the help of a psychologist and his healing journey began.
“It was such a relief to be able to talk to someone who wasn’t going to judge me, feel sorry for me or try to fix me on the spot. And it didn’t happen overnight. It took a lot of talking and ultimately medication to get my head right and calm the self-loathing voices.”
Now managing his anxiety well, Richard was keen to share the lessons he’d learnt and wanted to give back. So in 2019, Richard selected Beyond Blue as his charity of choice on Network 10’s ‘I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here’! His winnings of $80,000 funded over 1,600 calls to Beyond Blue’s Support Service which provides the community free confidential advice from trained mental health professionals.
Richard not only financially supported Beyond Blue’s work, but also bravely used his public profile to share personal experiences of his friends and family, including his mother’s bipolar diagnosis and his own experience of anxiety and depression which was of great value to the Australian community.
Richard is a champion for good mental health and has approached the most personal of topics with emotion, honesty and integrity. It’s conversations like the ones started by Richard, reaching millions of people, that smash stigma, spark other conversations and let people who may be struggling in silence know they are not alone.