• Joel Thompson in his Yarn Safe video. (YouTube)Source: YouTube
NRL star opens up about his troubled past as the new face for Yarn Safe's latest campaign.
Tara Callinan

11 Feb 2016 - 11:56 AM  UPDATED 11 Feb 2016 - 12:29 PM

Four-time Indigenous All Stars Joel Thompson has teamed up with headspace for their Yarn Safe campaign, encouraging Aboriginal youth to speak up about mental health.

“There’s nothing shame about speaking about issues, or problems that you’re going through. People are there to help you, and support you in any way you need,” he said.

Thompson features in a new Yarn Safe video, talking about his own struggles growing up as a troubled kid in outback NSW.

“I come from a lot of domestic violence, drug and alcohol issues.”

“Growing up around that taught me to be resilient and create my own path through hard work and dedication, and through that I’m lucky enough now to play in the NRL,” he said.

But success didn’t come without hurdles.

At just 13 years of age, Thompson had his first police interview for breaking and entering, which was a turning point in his life.

“I used to drink to forget about what was really happening and that’s the worst thing I could have done,” he said.

Headspace CEO Chris Tanti said the involvement of NRL players is critical in breaking the stigma associated with seeking help.

“Fifty nine per cent of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population are under 25 and they have a higher incidence of mental health problems compared to non-Aboriginal young people.”

“The statistics on suicide, self-harm and other severe mental health issues are appalling - yet they are not accessing appropriate services,” he said.

Headspace and the NRL teamed up for their Yarn Safe video campaign to coincide with Saturdays All-Stars match in Brisbane.

Mr Tanti hopes this will empower and encourage players and fans to speak up and seek help.

“In the two years since Yarn Safe was launched, there has been a 32 per cent increase in the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people attending headspace centres. This is a significant shift, but there is much more work to be done.”

Support is available for anyone who may be feeling distressed at Sane Helpline on 1800 187 263, Lifeline on 131 114 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.