Men, and mental health

I’ve read a few books, many more articles, listened to a ton of podcasts. I knew what I was in for starting up a business. But I never really knew just how hard it would be.

Little ‘could have done betters’ hovering on the fringes of your mind while you discuss what’s for dinner; the pervasive, abrasive chase of the next job, the next payday. The buck, stopping, yes, with you.

A doorway opens when you strike out on your own, but there’s a force 10 gale rushing back through and trying to slam it shut. As portals I’ve peered through go, it’s second only to the rush of sudden appreciation and endless examination of becoming a parent.

So I’m very glad I’ve had some support - family and friends to bounce ideas off, get a bit of work with to keep things ticking over, just put up with things (like not being much of a family or friend in return).

Yet still doubts creep, voices nag inside. Mental health suffers.

This month, in between the doubts, Fairly has been busy as ever making audio. We’re lucky to sit in to honest conversations from business founders while producing the Conversations of Inspiration podcast for Holly & Co. As entrepreneurs share tales of their own journey, many reveal they had their doubts and hard times. Not surprising, perhaps, when so many startups are so inextricably linked to the lives and fortunes of those behind the brand.

It’s the inherent beauty of podcasts that they bring conversation, and reflection. Even a monologue, listened to quietly through headphones or while doing the washing up, creates a tangible emotional connection. the looser format (compared with radio) often gives time to get into the weeds and root out sources of problems. They can sit with a topic and connect with their audience. Conversations can flow.

In the latest episode of Fairly’s own Fatherhood podcast, we hear a conversation on mental health with Jamie Madge. He was made for to be a dad - gregarious, funny, caring. Yet soon after his daughter was born he knew he felt ‘a bit off’. Which quickly became ‘a lot off’.

Listen to the episode above to hear Jamie and presenter Robin Leeburn (that’s me) discuss male post-partum depression (one in ten dads suffer), mental health (38% of new dads report suffering according to the parenting charity NCT), social media and support networks.

Jamie’s route to recovery is inspiring and it’s great to see him feeling good about his experience. It shows the power of sharing, reaching out for help. Which can be so hard to do. Jamie shared his thoughts not only with his wife Sarah and his GP, but later on Facebook, with a torrent of love and support returning his way.

However, here in the UK the Office of National Statistics released data this year suggesting young adults, raised with social media, are the loneliest demographic. As services continue to fall away with austerity, this is a huge concern.

As someone starting out I have come to realise the feelings of isolation which can snatch at the heels - hours toiling at a computer, working it our for yourself. I’ve mad that choice, I’m ready for it, so it can only be imagined what the truly isolated, the bullied and forgotten can feel.

There is of course hope. Twitter, for an afternoon last week, seemed to shed a skin of aggressive trolling to revel a softer side to masculinity, when writer Caitlin Moran quietly asked men ‘what’s up?’.

Perhaps one of the benefits then, of our connected, digital age, is the opportunity for wider sense of auteurship along with the entrepreneurship. A hunger to connect with makers who not only create a product but aim to help shape a new way of doing business, friendly to the environment, workers and customers - people. It’s certainly a world I’m encountering in the audio industry as I make my way.

But in the end, we all need support. So here’s hoping that all these stories, this reaching out, will receive some love in return. Yes from family, friends, colleagues and customers, but also from structures, organisations and governments too.

Fatherhood podcast

Fatherhood podcast

Jamie and daughter Olivia

Jamie and daughter Olivia