It’s Hearing Awareness Week! To raise awareness, we chatted to Neighbours star and hearing loss advocate, Nathan Borg, about his experiences growing up, Deaf Identity and mental health.
Q: A lot of us feel pressure to ‘fit in’ at school, but once we leave we learn that everyone wants to stand out. Is that true to your experience?
Nathan: In my experience, I never did fit in at school. I was constantly bullied, both verbally and physically about my deafness and sexuality. At the time I didn’t know much about my Deaf Identity or sexuality, so I believed every word the bullies said to me. It was a tough and confusing time, I felt very lost. On the positive side, I had a great group of supportive friends and integration aids who helped me get through it.
I made the decision to leave high school to study at a theatre school in the city. This boosted my confidence, I learnt about myself, other identities and I had the chance to stand out. A year later I was kicked out of that school due to my disability and my confidence plummeted. I began to doubt myself and my career path.
Around the age of 20, I slowly started to regain my confidence. I worked on brushing off harsh comments, focusing on my career and loving myself. It took a long time – more than four years and even now I’m still learning.
Q: How did you learn to embrace your Deafness?
Nathan: I went through stages of embracing my Deafness. Some days I embraced it, others I didn’t. The days I hated being Deaf were the days students would make me feel like my Deafness was wrong. Growing up I was never exposed to the Deaf Community which was quite isolating because I was only ever involved in the hearing world. There were only two other Deaf people that I knew of in the town I lived in.
In my early 20s, I started to learn more about Deafness, Deaf Identity, the Deaf Community and cochlears. The list goes on. How did I do that? I started contacting Deaf people on social media, researched online and did Auslan courses. I love to talk about my journey and Deafness to anyone who wants to know more.
Q: If you could tell your 16-year-old self-one thing, what would you say?
Nathan: The one thing I would tell 16-year-old Nathy is that: “Everything happens for a reason. You will understand why later. Trust the universe.”
Q: How do you look after your own mental health?
Nathan: I have always been able to express my emotions to my family and friends since I was young. I could always find a shoulder to cry on which helped my mental health, to get it all out. I remember in my teens I never understood why people used to say “men don’t cry”, I always thought “How can you not cry?!”
I go for walks in the fresh air, do activities that I enjoy, and make sure I have a good balance of being social and having alone time. Working on my passion in the Arts Industry also helps my mental health because it is something my heart and soul enjoys. Surrounding yourself with people who are positive and creative is a literal vibe and does wonders for your mental health. I also speak to a psychologist. I hope everyone knows there is no shame in seeing a psychologist. I believe that everyone needs to see one. Every feeling you have is valid, no matter how big or small.
No one is perfect and life can’t be perfect. I think we all forget to check in on our mental health sometimes, but the more we speak about it openly, the more people will remember to check in with themselves.
If you would like to access support, remember you can chat to someone any time and for any reason at:
Kids Helpline- call 1800 55 1800 or chat online here
Lifeline- call 13 11 14 or text 0477 13 11 14 or chat online here