- Tell us a bit about yourself
Hi, I’m Matt.
There’s probably a lot I could mention and I’m not totally sure where to start. I’m a big fan of most things related to the zombie apocalypse (love TWD), I enjoy growing moustaches (clearly) and people watching.
Sometimes, I’m a youth speaker. I’ve been doing that for just over 10 years. I’ve had the opportunity to travel around the world and speak to and work with thousands of young people around the issues that matter to them (including mental health).
I don’t have a ton of free time these days, but when I do, I love spending it with my 4 and a half year old. He’s pretty awesome and I love seeing the world from his perspective.
- What is your connection to mental illness?
When I was in 2nd year of University, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety. It was difficult. Really hard. I didn’t have a great relationship with my parents at the time and I had felt really overwhelmed and somewhat unsupported during a time that was pretty scary. Let’s be clear though, I didn’t really tell anyone – so I can’t expect that they knew what was going on.
For over 2 years I struggled pretty hard with the feelings. I was often feeling debilitated and would often shut down, rather than speak up about what was going on.
I learned a lot through that experience.
- Do you think there is a different stigma surrounding men who live with mental illness?
I think that it can be a bit more difficult for men to talk about their feelings and their struggles with mental health. I know that’s a bit of a generalization and that it’s not the case for everyone, but, societally, we’re not as encouraged to express this. Depending on how we’re grown, we can be told that it’s not okay to express our emotions (outside of anger) and that can do a lot of damage. It can cause men to feel bad about having these other feelings and even worse if they decide that they need to speak up about it.
That really needs to stop. I think that men need to be educated to know that it’s okay to not be okay – that we have all the emotions and that it’s healthy and important to share what we’re going through.
- If you could tell your younger self one thing- what would you say?
I say that it gets better- but not unless you’re willing and able to put in the work. I think there’s sometimes a unintentional danger in telling young people to not worry and that things will get better (without going deeper into how to do that). If we simply stop at “It gets better”, what happens if it doesn’t?
I’d sit down with myself and I’d help my younger self start to understand how our brains start changing around the age of 12. I’d talk about how there are going to be all these thoughts and feelings that I’m going to have that are going to feel like there’s something wrong with me, but that there’s not. It means I’m normal.
I’d tell myself that the mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master and that we have more power over our thoughts than we may ever truly recognize.
I’d tell myself to start journaling. Sooner. To get everything I’m feeling and thinking out on paper so I can get it out of my head.
- What are you most proud of yourself for?
I’m most proud that I’ve taken my own personal struggle with mental health and, in a very small way, made it mean something for others. I’ve been able to take my story and share it in a way that helps people understand that they are not alone and that, with work and support, we have the ability to overcome a lot of the challenges that life presents to us.
- Who is a Role Model to you?
I feel really grateful to have so many positive role models in my life. It’s difficult to choose just one.
I think that a Role Model is someone whose actions influence you more than their words. I’d say, right now, I look at my son and I’m influenced and inspired by his curiosity, his resilience, and the way he sees the world. It’s fresh and it’s a constant reminder of all the things I have to be grateful for in my life.