Focus on Male Mental Health
Stacy Fitzpatrick Interviews Virgin Radio Presenter Eddy Temple Morris
Mental health awareness and support services are notably prominent in our daily lives with organisations working continuously to offer advice, support, and help. Most of us will have suffered or been affected by mental health related issues in some way. In this issue, we focus on male mental health. It is widely acknowledged that it is often difficult for males to open up about their feelings, and even more so if they are experiencing intense vulnerability, hopelessness, and depression. CultureHUB interviews Virgin Radio presenter, Eddy Temple Morris about his own experience.
Depression and mental health illness can strike anyone at any time. The recent untimely deaths of a number of much-loved household names demonstrates that no-one is immune.
Presenter, musician and DJ, Eddy Temple Morris knows all too well the feelings and effects of depression, having experienced his own bouts of ill mental health resulting in him almost taking his own life.
Currently presenting a daily show on Virgin Radio, Eddy’s media career has spanned decades. Starting as a bass player with Southern Death Cult offshoot band, Joy, he progressed into radio broadcasting with Radio 1 before being head-hunted by MTV, which resulted in him presenting a daily show on the music channel. He returned to radio as a DJ at XFM before making his new home at Virgin. The presenter is also a dedicated musician in his current band Losers, whose music has reached the ears of many people in household name TV shows including Game of Thrones, CSI, and The Walking Dead.
Throughout his career, Eddy has worked concurrently with mental health projects, as a pioneer for male mental health for over 11 years. This stemmed from a series of experiences in the music industry, which highlighted to him personally, the vast pressures of the business and the shocking statistics of suicide that proliferated the industry’s backdrop.
“The makeup of the music industry is so male. On that subject we get to an incredibly worrying statistic: That I am five times more likely to kill myself than you are by virtue of the fact that I am a man.”
An ambassador for the mental health charity CALM, Eddy reveals how tragedy led him to become involved in campaigning, offering support and prevention advice to mental health sufferers.
“I was good friends with a band called Ou Est Le Swimming Pool. I went on record saying that their debut album was the greatest debut in electro-pop music since Depeche Mode. And we [Losers] were on the bill together, we were on the bill with them a lot. They were much younger than me but I felt a real kindred bond with them. They were lauded as being the next big thing – they really were! They had their debut album coming out and they were doing a run of summer festival dates and having an absolutely amazing time. So, on a Friday night in August 2010, I’m on XFM doing my show and I teased the fact that I’m about to play an Ou Est Le Swimming Pool remix of a Losers track. I had a volley of messages, texts, emails notifications and stuff saying ‘Eddy, have you heard? Have you heard about Charlie?’ I was like ‘No? What’s going on?’ And it dawned on me while I was playing the record that he had killed himself.”
‘Charlie’ Charles Haddon, was the 22-year-old lead singer of Ou Est Le Swimming Pool. He was found dead by fellow band member and best friend after their performance at Pukkelpop, Belgium. Eddy states:
“He killed himself because he was mentally unwell. He had depression, he didn’t talk about it, he didn’t really tell anyone about it. He didn’t face it. I was asked by Joe and the rest of the band to host the album launch party which went ahead at a sold-out KOKO.”
In the wake of Charlie’s death, at the launch party, Eddy took to the stage with a passionate speech enlightened as to the potential cause of suicide.
“I said something along the lines of, ‘Charlie died because he didn’t talk. He didn’t talk about what he was feeling and also, every woman that’s in here right now, bear with us – because we’re not as good as you at this. You are much better at talking about stuff.’
And then I said to all of the men, ‘Be more like women. Everybody is going home tonight. All of you are with someone, with another person or a group of four people or whatever. So, on your way home do me a favour, just talk about something that you are too afraid to talk about, or that you are too uncomfortable to talk about, or something that you have never talked about. It could be anything at all like if you are pissed off with your flatmate that they didn’t do the washing up or whatever, tell them. If you are gay and nobody knows, tell them. Whatever it is that is on your mind, the big elephant in the room that girls are really good at addressing; boys, you address it tonight.’ – I was flooded with messages from young people, over a hundred of them, who had got in touch with me to say thank you for being so honest and that my suggestion had changed their lives profoundly – that was so heart-warming.”
Eddy’s involvement with CALM was a direct result of that speech.
“Basically at that gig this lady approached me backstage … she said, ‘Well thank you for all of the nice things you said, incredibly amazing things you said about mental health and it’s really cool what you are trying to do here. Can I ask you a question, what is the biggest killer of men under 50 in this country?’
It suddenly dawned on me, I was like ‘Oh my God it’s the actual men themselves isn’t it?’
And she said, ‘Yes … I’m in a charity called CALM and there is only one employee, and it’s me. And we deal with the gender issue of suicide … And I haven’t got enough money to put a 2nd class stamp on an envelope and send it to the police in Liverpool who are emailing me all the time saying, ‘Help us, young men are dropping like flies here and we don’t know what to do’. So I need people like you to help me.’
Suicide at the time was 13 men a day killing themselves in this country alone. I then took it upon myself, with Joe, to really get stuck in. I ended up being asked to be the chair of their music board years ago and with the help of some great people we’ve taken CALM to another level, and awareness of them and of suicide, particularly male suicide, is at an all-time high.”
The key to Eddy’s mission is the prevention of depression and suicide.
Up to this point, the presenter himself had not experienced mental health issues, yet they soon came. Eddy had described himself prior to his friend’s suicide as being happy-go-lucky.
“I’m quoting Robin Bresnark from Melody Maker [on me] ‘The happiest bugger you could ever hope to meet. A man whose eyes are so bright that moths fly into them on foggy nights.’
Recalling his darkest moment, Eddy says:
“I wasn’t talking to anybody because I was so so depressed and anyone who has been depressed will tell you, you don’t want to talk to anyone, you feel as though you are a burden to all of your friends. You kind of don’t want to bring people down to where you are, you want to let them shine and be happy. So you think you are doing everyone a favour by shutting up and not talking.
I didn’t attempt it but I got so close that I got into my car with the express purpose of throwing myself off a bridge. What brought me back honestly, was the thought of what would happen or the repercussion of what I was doing. I basically thought cognitively about the decision that I was making, what happens when I do die? And I thought well, what is going to happen to my son? He’s been with me ever since he was three or four years old, I have been a single dad raising him, you know, he is a man now, he is 18. He’s an only child and I just thought it would be an absolute disaster for him. So I turned around. A 40-minute journey and I turned around and after that 40 minutes the tears kinda dried up and I realised what the hell I was doing.
Suicide… It’s so permanent. It’s a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”
Dealing with pressures of life can mentally drain anyone. Eddy recently discovered a coping technique which he reveals has had a profound positive effect on his own mental health. He explains:
“In January last year, I discovered this yogic breathing technique like a cold water therapy coping mechanism called the Wim Hof Method. It involves about 15 minutes of hyperventilation and breath holding, letting go of your breath and not breathing. You combine that with cold water therapy. I have a freezing cold shower every day without fail … it’s been green-lighted by every form of scientific community. It measurably gives you a massive boost to your immune system and to your nervous system and makes your body produce dopamine in huge amounts and also epinephrine. It triggers your adrenal glands to produce epinephrine, which helps you deal with infections and stuff. I’ve not been ill and not had any kind of cold or flu since I started doing that.”
The method involving breathing, cold water exposure, and meditation is a simple technique to incorporate into your daily routine as Eddy explains:
“It is 15 minutes in the morning when you wake up. If you say you haven’t got time, set your alarm clock 15 minutes earlier and as soon as you get up just do it. I get this massive surge of dopamine in my blood every morning. And as well as the nice serotonin it’s a huge dopamine spike because it has been measured in controlled experiments.
So basically that’s my coping mechanism. I meditate once or twice every day without fail and I do this Wim Hof method and the freezing cold shower for about 90 seconds. By the time you have done the shower technique for a month, your body physiologically changes. Every pipe, every capillary and vessel in your body will dilate slightly.
Think about the ramifications of that. If every pipe in your body dilates slightly that means your heart works much less hard to send blood around your body. It’s incredibly good for you.”
Acknowledging that it is more difficult for a man to open up and talk about their feelings, Eddy asserts that to talk openly is the most positive action to take, saying:
“You feel cathartic, it is like a weight is lifted. When you tell people vocally it could be friends, a cab driver, bar person or whatever. I am a big advocate of being open and honest with everyone – with as many people as you can.
I was admonished a lot by managers in the past or girlfriends for being too open, too approachable, too honest, in the context of you are giving too much of yourself away but if I hadn’t have done that I would be dead. I know that because one of the people I opened up to at the time, I was really really bad was Gary Numan and his wife. Particularly his wife, Gemma, as it turned out.
Gemma was a stranger then. She was the wife of one of my heroes but still, I didn’t know her and my opening up and telling her I was suicidal … there were tears at that point. We both cried and she gave me her phone number, Gary’s number, and their home number and said ‘if you are ever going through the mill just call me anytime.’”
As anyone who has experienced depression may relate to, there are periods of intense vulnerability. To have an anchor or be an anchor for somebody can be a life-saving tool for coping. Eddy reveals his own experience from both sides:
“The darkest time for me was between 5am-7am when all of my insomniac buddies had gone to sleep. And I’m still awake and that’s the vulnerable time when I could have done something permanent and stupid. At that point, I would call Gemma. Because she was in LA and because of the time difference she would have just put her kids to bed and she would then talk me down from the ledge. It was so lovely to have someone there for me, she’s my wingman in that respect. Being there, being available to talk to is so important and it’s something I have done on numerous occasions for artists, talking them down off ledges because I am so open about it and vocal … I would just talk to them and listen to them and advise them from the viewpoint of someone that has been through it.”
Admitting to others that you are struggling is often a taboo for males, a core point in the message Eddy works to deliver using a variety of multi-platformed media.
“When I did Scroobious Pip’s podcast Distraction Pieces it happened in the most profound way. I still get people coming to me saying ‘Thank you so much for admitting your vulnerability, I felt like I wasn’t alone.’ And people just thought ‘God I can really identify with that, if Eddy is talking about that then it’s fine for me to talk about it.’
My father died very recently and I did this kind of emotional post about how abusive he was towards me and how we made friends at the end, a few days before he died. A couple of my friends said ‘I’m not able to address life in such an open way. Now I’m changing my relationship with my father – thank you so much for showing me the way – you’ll never know how much you’ve helped me.’
I have a little mental health discussion on my show on Virgin Radio almost every day … And I have been on a rant previously saying ‘Listen I have just played this Linkin Park record now I want you to get your phone out and just go through your address book. Either find that person that you know is struggling and send them a text just to let them know you are thinking about them; or just randomly, if you haven’t got one of them, just randomly scroll through your address book and find somebody that you haven’t talked to for ages and just send them a message saying ‘I am thinking of you.’ If we all do that then one life will be spared tonight. If everybody gets into the habit of doing that, then you know what I am saying on the radio will have a pyramid effect, word of mouth effect, and will save a life just from that link.’”
Scroobius Pip podcast Distraction Pieces with Eddy Temple Morris
The current statistics show that men are five times more likely than women to die by suicide. An alarming rate which Eddy firmly attributes to men’s lack of talking openly about their concerns and feelings. However female suicide does occur but often not highlighted as much as male suicide.
“The reason that female suicide isn’t as prevalent in the media as male suicide is because it’s not happening as much. It’s simple mathematics. In the UK 12 men are going to kill themselves today and only between two and three women. So that’s the statistics, the raw facts. Therefore the perception of male suicide is male-focused. The politics of it, the media approach to it everything comes down to mathematics.”
Eddy reveals another alarming and surprising statistic related to suicide by profession, in the media industry:
“But then we come to that incredible turning of the statistic … a female musician is three times more likely to kill herself than a male musician. So that trend is almost on its head. That’s a massive pendulum swing. And I have got my eyes open to these kinds of things. I think it’s something that may be feared and known about, but certainly not acknowledged by the record business here and it’s something that they should be ashamed of.
So I put it out there for the first time. I said it on Twitter and it got mentioned in a podcast. It got quoted by Scroobious Pip and he made this GIF that is doing the rounds at the moment on Facebook and Twitter.
We have got to ask ourselves: what is it that is making women – who are normally almost bulletproof, as vulnerable as men in music? So I want the BPI and record labels to look at that. So, then call the woman that they signed, who they see is emotional, or high maintenance, or weepy and crying and send them a text and say ‘are you OK’ Not to call them and go ‘When can we do this, how much money?’”
Eddy delivers a poetic analogy:
“Mental ill health is something you go through … I compare people to wine. The vines have to struggle because it makes a more noble wine. If that vine struggles it will make a better wine. And people are the same. If people struggle and they get through it and they don’t die by suicide, they come out of the other side. They will get there stronger, wiser, better, more interesting more rounded, just better in every way. Like people we know who have, we know it and we love them that much more for it.
I feel bulletproof nowadays. I know that the next time I have a massive mental health issue I will be able to deal with it. Because I have been through it, it’s like scar tissue heals much stronger. Scar tissue is much stronger than normal tissue.”
Listen to Eddy on Virgin Radio Weekdays 10am-1pm & weekends. Follow him on Facebook or twitter @eddyTM.