Through his efforts as a Beyond Blue Speaker and as a community and workplace mental health advocate, it’s no wonder QLD-based Speaker James Hill was recently nominated for Australian of the Year for his continued work in the mental health space.
James has been influencing change at Energy Queensland where he has been working as a tradesman since 2007. Backed by the CEO he’s co-designed and implemented a full-time Mental Health Advocate position at Energy Queensland, creating a blueprint for the future of workplace mental health.
Back in 2015, James decided to become a Beyond Blue Speaker because he wanted to prevent others from reaching the point that he did with his mental health. When he found himself in a dark place, living with anxiety and depression, James stumbled across Beyond Blue, completing the self-check questionnaire which encouraged him to speak to a doctor. James reflects: “I came across Beyond Blue at the right time, and it saved my life… it was the beginning of a journey that changing the course of my life for the better. The road hasn’t always been easy but having a better understanding and access to support has been the biggest benefit, for me.”
Prior to completing the Beyond Blue self-check questionnaire, James had little understanding of different mental health conditions, how to recognise the signs and symptoms and where to seek help. His personal experiences have helped shape him, and James wants the audience to know: “There is no shame in mental ill-health, recognising signs early and getting support early are the keys to positive outcomes.”
James has been involved in many Beyond Blue speaking events and projects, including the filming of his story to be shown at virtual events around the country (prior to virtual events becoming the new COVID-normal)
James was filled with gratitude that his story and message of hope could be shared so far and wide through this video. When asked about what he enjoys about being a Beyond Blue Speaker, James shared: “Being a Beyond Blue speaker is extremely rewarding, knowing I am making a difference in society by tackling stigma and creating awareness and pathways to help fills me with pride.”
Before a speaking engagement, James tried to free up his day, as he finds sharing his story and talking about past experiences can be quite emotionally draining. He finds that taking the time to practice self-care is vital. For James, this looks like eating and sleeping well, partaking in regular exercise, taking time out for mindfulness and ensuring he stays connected to people. James also enjoys doing art, watching soccer, and getting out and about on his Harley Davidson or in his old 1964 VW.
Being nominated for Australian of The Year has been a humbling experience. James told us: “I felt very humbled by the nomination, as I continue to do the work I do often without reflecting. It is an honour to be recognised at this level and definitely something I wouldn’t have dreamt of many years ago.”
Although James did not win his category in the November awards, he told us: “The awards were an amazing experience, although I was not announced as the winner, to be one of four finalists was incredible!”
James’ work doesn’t stop here - he is always looking forward to what comes next and searching for any opportunity to have a positive impact in the world. In the future, James would love to continue his work to improve people’s awareness of early intervention and access to help. He also looks forward to working on more wellness strategies and continuing to encourage education and overall understanding of mental health in the community.