Singer Luke Antony will be one of the celebrity ambassadors for suicide prevention charity R U OK? on its Mardi Gras float this weekend.
Antony has spoken about the difficulties of growing up gay in regional Queensland.
“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,” he said.
“I discovered from a young age that I was quite different to a lot of the other people around me, and it turns out I was gay.
“But after I came out, I still felt guilt.”
Antony believes finding a support network is invaluable when you’re struggling with sexuality.
“I still sometimes struggle to talk to people like my family about things like boyfriends because i know they don’t quite understand,” he said.
“Finding people that are in similar situations or that love you unconditionally – that’s the most powerful thing.”
This year he will join singer Casey Donovan and actor and comedian Steven Oliver in representing R U OK? in the Mardi Gras parade.
Around 80 choreographed dancers, R U OK? staff and ambassadors will march behind the float, this year themed ‘Listen with Love’.
The theme refers to the charity’s second step to starting a conversation about mental wellbeing.
The steps are: ask; listen; encourage action; check in.
Nominated for a 2018 LGBTI Award for charity, R U OK? is passionate about its ongoing commitment to a reduction in suicide rates within the LGBTI community.
Mardi Gras is one of the many ways the charity is attempting to change the statistics, through awareness and education.
“This is an event that brings the community together to celebrate strength, unity and diversity—things that make Australia great,” said CEO Brendan Maher.
“What better platform to remind everyone of the importance to regularly check in on your mates and loved ones?
“We know LGBTI youth suicide rates are up to five times higher than that of their peers. We want our presence at both Fair Day and 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.”
This will be R U OK?’s second year appearing at Mardi Gras.
The 2017 volunteer float committee—who have all been touched by suicide—have stepped up to do it all again, but bigger and better and with more glitter.
The committee has worked to coordinate the float and dancers, to remind the LGBTI community to ask “Are you ok?”, not just on R U OK? Day, but all year round.