Propelled to fame in the first season of Australian Idol in 2003, Rob “Millsy” Mills became instantly recognisable to millions of people around the country.
We all thought we knew him—he’d been presented as a 21-year-old larrikin with an eye for the ladies—but we didn’t know what was going on beneath the surface.
Confronted by a crowd on the Gold Coast shortly after being eliminated from the singing competition, he suffered a major panic attack and admits thoughts of ending his life flashed through his mind.
“It was terrifying,” the 36-year-old actor and singer recalls.
“I was being grabbed and mobbed and put in headlocks. It was like, ‘Why? I’m just a person.’ I had a horrible time that night. I dove in someone’s car and just told them to drive. I went to my hotel and thought about jumping off my balcony. That moment was, ‘Well, this could be it, Rob. You could end it right now and you wouldn’t have to worry about people grabbing you and the panic you’re feeling.’ ”
Mills discusses the moment in the new season of ABC series You Can’t Ask That—he features in the ex-reality stars episode airing July 18 and available now on iview—and tells WHO, “That was really the first time I’d ever thought about [doing] that. I didn’t know who I was—I think that’s all it was.
Everybody seemed to know who I was. I’ve worked pretty hard over the past 15 years to find out who that person is.”
Even though Mills describes the incident as “a split-second thought” he says it’s one he “will never forget, that weighs heavily on my being. I was most certainly not okay and felt like I didn’t have anyone with me that night I could just be myself with.”
Mills was able to call his brother and credits that with helping him through his crisis. “He still to this day is a very good rock,” he says. “It’s good to have an older brother to keep you grounded, and I’ve got two. I don’t think I mentioned [my suicidal thoughts] at all—I just needed to talk to someone. I don’t think I told him until years later. Because of that night and other things I’ve gone through in my life, I feel like you need to be surrounded by people who give a s--t about you, who actually care. They can ask if you’re OK and be there to listen.”
While Mills says, “It never got that bad [again],” he does admit to having other periods of not feeling okay. “Maybe my personality type has higher highs than most people and therefore I have lower lows,” he continues.
“There were times when I’ve done a gig or tour and come back and just been really flat. I’m great at entertaining an audience, but then I come home and that’s all I think I am. It takes time to learn [who you are] and put those building blocks in place.”
The entertainer says the process of getting to know himself “will never stop, whether it’s through books or therapy or great connections or travel. If it’s there, I’ve done it and willcontinue to keep trying new things. You never stop growing or changing.”
Most important of all, according to Mills, who is an ambassador for R U OK Day, is that “people need to have more conversations about how they’re feeling and not fear the judgement that comes with it. Not fear that,
‘Oh, you’re weak.’ People are scared to be vulnerable, and I learnt a few years ago when you show your vulnerability, that’s when you actually show your strength.”
Those dark moments don’t come so often anymore, Mills says. “I realised I needed to stop worrying so much about what other people thought of me and realised I had a good grasp of who I was. I did a cabaret show a few years ago called Rob Mills Is Surprisingly Good. Maybe it was me who was perpetuating the notion that I was ‘surprisingly’ good.
I decided if I take ownership of that label, maybe I can just be ‘good’.”
If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14 or visit the website at lifeline.org.au. If it’s an emergency, call 000.
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