On the cover of any magazine, Sam Frost radiates a gleaming smile, golden hair and unobtainable beauty. Her sunny disposition quickly became an insignia patch on her name, a suitable description for a bubbly actress on the long-running drama, Home and Away.
Yet, Sam isn't the typical poster girl for Summer Bay and she doesn't claim to be. Since she burst onto our screens in 2014, she has been pushed to the brink of losing herself and had to fight tooth-and-nail to come back again.
She's fallen hard, scraped her knees on the gravel of public opinion and felt the cold impact of hitting rock bottom. There were times when she thought about giving up, so much so that her family had to intervene.
But for someone who has been underestimated for most of her twenties, Sam is rising up and proving she's stronger than people think. Now, she's encouraging others to do the same.
In a deeply raw interview, the mental health ambassador discusses her plight and why now is the time to look out for each other.
TV WEEK: How are you adjusting to life in isolation?
It's been an adjustment, certainly. I'm a workaholic and my life is quite chaotic, so I really thought I'd struggle in isolation. I don't even like weekends! I know, there's something wrong with me [laughs]. Even the Home and Away cast were like, 'Sam, what will you do with all this time off?' But I've managed to keep ourselves busy.
Do you worry about what the future holds?
When the pandemic first began, I was pre-empting that Home and Away would have to go on a production break. I knew it was quite serious. Having to navigate ourselves as a country, a government and a society has been challenging.
The unknown is the hardest part; how long will this go on? But as soon as we can get back to work, we will. We still keep in touch. Emily Symons [who plays Marilyn] and I caught up over Zoom the other day with a glass of wine. We always check in with each other.
You're a mental health ambassador and have created your own initiative, Believe. Now more than ever, we need to come together. How important is it to check in?
We have to look after ourselves and each other. It's very easy for it [mental health] not be a priority. And in isolation, we don't have the tools we use to distract ourselves from my own thoughts. I don't have a choice now but to sit in my own body and mind and really work through my feelings. The best thing is to be aware of how you feel every day and speak to loved ones about how you feel.
You've been open about your own struggles with depression and anxiety in the past – most of which were dealt with in the in the public eye. Have you found a balance now?
It's still something I'm trying to figure it out. It's always changing depending on where you're at. I keep certain things private and when I'm working through things, I deal with it and only share what I need too. But I always stay true to myself in the public eye and privately, as well.
When you first started speaking out, it was shortly after the controversy surrounding your time on The Bachelor and Bachelorette [in 2014 and 2015, which resulted in two public breakups]. How different are you from that person to now?
Oh, I'm a completely different person. I was so naïve, and I often shake my head thinking about it. At the time, I believed in finding love; that's all I wanted. I thought I would be complete if I had an amazing relationship and had kids early on. I grew up in a small town [Ferntree Gully, Victoria] and everyone does it there, but I wasn't finding it.
Reality TV was different back then too. It was only the second season [of The Bachelor] and I didn't know who I was. I was still working through my own issues, but I was resolute in finding a man and a house and land package. I don't believe that now. I've grown so much since then and I feel fortunate that I had the experiences I did. I wouldn't change a thing.
Do you know more about yourself in your 30s?
I do. There's nothing wrong with anyone who buys house and land packages either, it's not a negative thought, but for some people that's not what they need to do. Throughout most of my twenties, I thought I was a screw up. I felt like my mind was playing tricks on me and it made me less of a person.
WATCH BELOW: Blake Garvey proposes to Sam Frost on The Bachelor Australia. Post continues after video...
For a period of time, you were a target of the tabloids and faced a barrage of criticism. Did you feel a weight come off your shoulders when you finally spoke up?
Not immediately. I was worried that people thought I was giving a sob story and it wasn't genuine. When you are vulnerable like that, it comes with anxieties. And that's why I stayed silent for so long. But I got to the point where I was like, 'OK, this is it. I'm out'. I don't think people understood the toll it took on me. I can feel everything people were saying about me and I couldn't understand why I was such a target – I still don't today.
But for me, I had to say something. I was about to check out completely. It was affecting me so much and my family. Journalists were writing things about me - and I'm sure they've been in a similar position where they've started a new job or had people criticise them – that I thought, 'do you have any idea how this feels to be constantly criticised?' You can't escape it. I think I'm a kind person and I work hard, so I didn't think it was fair.
How bad did it get for you during that time?
My family were extremely worried about me. I've always had tendencies to get really down, and anytime I get extremely quiet, they worry. Look…. things were really bad. It wasn't a great time for myself or my family. Thankfully I have them, Dave [Bashford, her long-time boyfriend] and a circle of girlfriends who know me so well, and the sensitive side of me. There aren't many who know the intricacies of that and I feel blessed I can count of them to life me up and make me stronger.
What was the impact when you did speak out?
A lot of people reached out to me after reading things in the media. Strangers felt connected and seeing me in a positive headspace, gave them strength. I'd get Instagram message and emails with private thoughts they may have never told anyone. So, I felt a responsibility to do something about it, which is what led to Believe. It's so hard to be vulnerable, but it shines a light on other people who really need help.
I try to find purpose in everything I do and – I get a bit spiritual with this kind of thing – I think the universe has given me this opportunity in the public eye to shed a light on mental health. It's a responsibility and I truly believe that's my purpose in life. It's now become easier for me to talk about mental health, because I know it is helping people.
After the dust settled, you joined H&A. Would you say it saved you, in some respects?
It probably did. It has been such a blessing in my life. Our series producer Lucy Addario saw something in me and she backed me – I have goose bumps talking about it. I'm going to get emotional - but I didn't expect anyone to see potential in me and give me an opportunity like this. This show had positively impacted myself and my entirely family. I'll never forget that.
Who is Sam Frost today?
You know what? I'm an absolute idiot [laughs], but I like to think it's in the best way. I'm really comfortable with who I am now at 31. Instead of beating myself up, I can nurture the depression and anxiety I feel. I can also trace why I feel certain feelings. I'm unapologetically myself and that's not about being vulnerable but embracing the silly side of me.
Everyone has different paths and live their own life, and that's okay. We're doing things at our own pace, living our best lives and trying to be good people. And that's all you can do.
"I try to get outside and go for a walk. Take 10 minutes to breathe in the fresh air."
"Painting, reading a book or even watching comedy on TV – do whatever makes you feel connected to yourself."
"Meditation services and psychologists are available to speak with. Many communities are making sure people can manage their mental health and are encouraging us to be the best version of ourselves."
"Put on a happy playlist while you do housework. I try to have fun with it."