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#MENtalHealth: An interview with Paul Thomas Bell from Brothers in Arms


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Suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK.

The charity Brothers in Arms believes, “There is a cultural barrier preventing men from seeking help because they are expected to be in control at all times, and failure to be seen as such feels like a weakness and a loss of masculinity.

“We want men to believe that they can seek and find help when they need it so that male suicide can be prevented."

Image credit: Paul Thomas Bell, Brothers in Arms

On speaking to Paul about his work in the mental health field, he revealed that he’s been working in media for about four years and that one of the perks of this job is the opportunity to help other people.

Paul told me that despite never having had any major mental health issues himself, he’s had some experiences in his life that had been mentally tough to deal with. “It’s not always about being clinic - there are other forms of mental health.”

Paul spoke on how he had become a big believer in not just addressing mental health, but maintaining it as well. “A lot of people don't take notice of these sorts of campaigns because they think they're ok. We should all be aware of the issues surrounding mental health and this is why we’re talking about it.”

In 2017, when Lincoln Park lead singer Chester Bennington tragically committed suicide, this influenced Paul and inspired him to spread the message he is working to create.

Some UK mental health helplines:

Mind: 0300 123 3393 / text 86463

Samaritans: 116 123

CALM: 0800 58 58 58

Papyrus: 0800 068 41 41

“I’d always been a fan. Bennington talked about his mental health eloquently. Sometimes we assume that people who have bad issues have lost their way a bit and don't make sense. It’s scary because charities are always encouraging people to talk about their feelings, and yet he did and he still couldn’t cope. Bennington was a guy who on paper had everything you could ever want, and yet that wasn’t enough to combat his depression. It opened my eyes to a lot of things.”

This kind of event proves that “when it comes to mental health, we are all the same, we are all equal”.

Paul also spoke on the importance of donations and support for charities such as Brothers in Arms: “A lot of people are under the misconception that charities get money chucked at them by the government, which is not the case. Funds, when they get them, are put to serious good use.”

I was interested to know if Paul thought that there had been an increase in the number of people struggling with their mental health in recent years. “There's been a shift in society over the years. I just don't remember, when I was younger, there being so many examples of suicide and celebrities killing themselves, and it’s hard to explain why things have changed.”

“It terrifies me to think there are kids as young as thirteen, fourteen, having these thoughts. This isn't only an adult issue, and there is obviously this concern that social media plays a big part. There is a darker side to it, working in the media you get used to criticism and trolls. Sometimes it’s hard to deal with as a grown man- how are kids dealing with it?”

Something as simple as a counselling session can make such a big difference. Brothers in Arms runs drop-in centres and talks for anyone struggling with their mental health. They also run sessions called #BletherWithABrother, encouraging people to attend, maybe not even to talk, sometimes just listening can give you the confidence to take that first step. Such events create safe spaces, encouraging people to speak out.

"There was a gentleman who came along to a support group - he had struggled to leave the house for fifteen years - Brothers in Arms funded a counsellor and just one session has made such a difference."

The organisation is big on suicide prevention and Paul highlighted their slogan, “Real men are missed by those they leave behind”. This reminder that you are loved and would be missed by those you love is a powerful message and aims to reach out to those who are struggling.

Brothers in Arms are currently celebrating the release of their new app, which allows people to take that 'first step' within the comfort of their own home. "A lot of the time people are scared to admit they are struggling, men especially. Men often struggle to open up and talk about these things. Giving them a simple platform such as the app enables them to do this privately, with the aim then encouraging them to seek help."

The Brothers in Arms short film released in April 2018, aims to encourage men of all ages to speak out about their insecurities as well as their mental health.

To watch more short films and tips on how to keep your mental health healthy, visit their YouTube channel here.

If you are struggling Brothers in Arms in a great place to start taking that first step. They offer a number of links here. These include:

This article is part of The National Student’s MENtal Health content series which is led by Laura Brown. You can see more from the series here.

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