Mistajam: ‘Men don’t talk about our feelings – it’s OK to say you’re not OK’

"You are not weak"

To mark International Men’s Day (Sunday November 19), DJ and BBC Radio 1 presenter Mistajam has called upon males to have no shame in discussing their feelings and break the stigma around opening up about depression.

As an advocate of mental health charity CALM (the Campaign Against Living Miserably), Mistajam spoke to us about breaking down barriers of opening up about mental health, and what help is available. Read our full Q&A below.

How did you come to be involved with CALM?

“I had a very deep heart to heart with the broadcaster and all round legend Eddy Temple Morris who pointed me in their direction. While I’ve never had to use their service personally, it’s exactly the kind of thing I would have really valued at my lowest point. There’s no judgement with CALM, just practical and real help.”

Do you feel that culturally at large, we’re moving away from the stigma of discussing mental health?

“Not quite. There’s still the feeling of what is and what isn’t a ‘man’ is supposed to do and talking about your feelings is firmly in the ‘not manly’ camp. Outside of gender, it’s still very taboo to talk about mental health. It’s associated with being weak which, from my experience, is really not the case. We need more situations like this where we’re normalising the conversation – where people can hear that the thoughts and feelings they’re feeling are the same as many other people around the world.”

The campaign to get those suffering to ‘talk’ is proving successful, but would you like to see done to enlighten other people to ‘listen’?

“It’s a hard one to answer and to be honest, the only thing I think that could potentially work is continuing the conversation. It’s taken a lot for me to talk about my own personal battles and how I’m personally still a work in progress – and that’s with me having the best possible support network you could think of with my wife Clare, manager Sean and a select few friends really helping me. It’s weird to say but high profile suicide cases like Chester Bennington I really hope can wake a few more people up into realising that the threat of trying to brush mental health under the carpet is so dangerous in our society. Mental health issues can affect anyone at any time regardless of their background and current situation and the more we can normalise talking about it, the sooner we can help those who are literally rock bottom.”

It’s International Men’s Day – why do we think it’s essential that we have the conversation about men and mental health?

“Simply because suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45 and I personally put that down to the fact that we don’t talk about our feelings, our challenges, our pressures and ultimately our mental health. It’s really OK to not be OK – and when you’re not OK, you’ll only be able to do something about it with support.”

Do you feel that notions of ‘masculinity’ are now outdated, especially when it comes to discussing mental health?

“The concept of masculinity is constantly evolving and means different things to different people – toxic masculinity is just that: toxic. The sooner we can all realise this, the sooner we can make a difference.”