Kiwi actor Joe Naufahu's raw message to men on overcoming depression

Joe Naufahu has been confronted by intense emotional turmoil on and off his whole life, for reasons he has never been able to understand.

Now the New Zealand actor is opening up about the pain he experienced while facing depression, painting a frank picture of how doubt, anxiety, stress and trauma can cripple the mind.

Speaking out to help "as many brothers as possible", Naufahu says he knows how volatile internal thinking can be. 

"You can be at the top of your field, you can have the most beautiful girlfriend, and this is the whole thing with your mind - it can start talking to you," Naufahu told Newshub.

The former professional rugby player and Game of Thrones star boasts an audience close to 17,000-strong on Instagram. He's used to posting pictures showing the fit physique he has formed in his gym Ludus Magnus, but to pair a topless photo with a raw, deep message addressing beyond his exterior, he had to dig deep.

On Sunday night, Naufahu sat in bed contemplating whether he wanted to add his voice to something so personal for many Kiwis. Reflecting on darker days, the father-of-two sat in bed until 3am Monday morning thinking about people he turned on, the barriers he was used to fighting and the hurt he had gone through thinking there was no way out.

Although he knows now what he goes through as depression, many times he felt very lost, ultimately pushing away anyone who would try to help him. Now in a space of discovery and acceptance striving to make a good life for himself, he saw an opportunity to help others who are trying to keep moving forward while facing an internal battle.

Kiwi actor Joe Naufahu's raw message to men on overcoming depression

He uploaded a lengthy caption under the title 'What does depression look like?' alongside one of his common mirror selfies.

"Depression is a master of disguises, a liar, a cheat, a hypnotist, the best con-artist of them all. It sits on your shoulder and it tells you stories," he wrote. 

"It is an artist, and it can paint magnificent pictures that will lull you to sleep inside." 

He continued to write, expressing himself with care, speaking from what he knew to be true before turning his phone off and going to sleep. The response in the morning was "overwhelming".

"Literally the first message I woke up to was from a guy who had been suffering terribly and had been comforted immensely by the post I wrote," Naufahu says. 

"That alone made it worthwhile but it's not isolated." 

Naufahu says the post has spurred conversations with his peers and strangers about men's mental health. He believes people are hurting and suffering everywhere. 

"It's tragic because we all have so much potential to enjoy this limited time we have on earth but we are so crippled by very our own thoughts." 

Many of his followers understood and could relate to the references he used in the Instagram post to describe what has been fighting through times during his adulthood.

"No matter what reality you live in, it will cast the darkest shadow over your truth. And slowly but surely you will start to lose everything and everyone that means anything to you," he shared. 

"It has fed on all your traumatic experiences throughout your existence. All the painful memories that you identify yourself with, it has dined on them daily. It feasts on all your fears. Fear of loss, of abandonment, of shame, of poverty, of misery, of sickness, of death.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

"Somewhere along the way, you lost your appetite, you stopped feeding yourself, you stopped being kind to yourself. You started punishing yourself."⠀⠀⠀

Counsellor Suzi Wallis told Newshub depression is "persistent and can be debilitating" and people experiencing depression see the world through a muted, less colourful lense. 

"They can't shake themselves out of depression by thinking positively or only taking medication - it is a multifaceted process to recover." 

Kiwi actor Joe Naufahu's raw message to men on overcoming depression

Naufahu says he was at his lowest when he started to reflect. In moments where he needs clarity, he takes time out and puts care into himself through exercise, meditation and being kind to himself and others. 

"It was only through pain, only through feeling shit about myself and just thinking, 'f**k man, I can't carry on like this because I'm going to do something.'

"I became curious about who am I, what is my calling, why did I do this, why have I lost in my life that I loved, why am I such an asshole sometimes, why am I a loser?"

Wallis says traditionally men have been taught that vulnerable equals week, which sends a mixed message that talking about their struggles isn't manly or welcome. 

"This is a very unhelpful narrative in our culture and needs to change. Most people have struggled with something in their lives, and are happy to lend an ear or direct someone they care about to someone who can help."

Naufahu says he feels deeply for those afflicted and will continue to speak out it can help others. 

"I will continue to be a voice of comfort and experience, as I try to loosen the loads that we all carry. "

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