FIGHTER Soa ‘the Hulk’ Palelei has one key message to those suffering from mental health: talk.
Palelei was suffering depression even when he was fighting as part of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
The 193cm, 120kg Palelei had a successful mixed martial arts (MMA) career between 2002 and 2015.
However, he began suffering from mental health issues when he was younger after was physically abused by his uncle as a child. As a result he spent time living on the streets and eventually sought out a psychologist to help with his mental illness.
He said speaking about his issues was a big help.
“The thing is, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t start speaking about it,” he said.
“If I can save one life and even change their whole perspective of looking at it, (get them) thinking, ‘my life is not that bad’.”
He visited Southern River College last Thursday to educate students about the issue.
Palelei said he suffered mental health issues all his life and speaking to the students was like “therapy”, as he spoke about his story two to three times a week.
He said he wanted to remove the stigma of mental illness because it was a huge problem, especially in men.
“Guys don’t talk about their problems,” he said.
“Talk; depression is a silent killer.”
He has already spoken at about 70 schools in WA and planned to speak to more in WA and interstate.
Palelei said he would speak mainly to students from Year 10 and up.
“We get massive numbers and a huge response, especially after it,” he said.
“I am trying to do the talks with kids especially, trying to set goals and getting them in the right direction.”
He said he would probably compete next year but was currently involved in the shooting of a bikie movie called 1% that includes Arrow actor Matt Nable.
Palelei said the film was similar to TV series Sons of Anarchy.
The film is currently being shot around Perth but there is no release date yet.
Palelei released a book called Face Your Fears in June this year with details about his amazing journey.