29 year old Matt Peet from Wigan has been with #MentalMovement from the start. During his time at the magazine he has interviewed some incredible people alongside writing about his own experiences of mental illness to help inspire others with their struggles.
In the past few months he’s been working hard on his own clothing brand ‘Behind A Smile’. We caught up with him to find out more and share his story with you.
Let’s jump straight in, could you tell us a little bit about your own journey with Mental Health and how you came to realise you suffered with it?
My own Mental Health… well that is a weird one really as I never had any abnormal symptoms. I served in the Royal Navy when I was about 20 – 25 and thought I was very strong both mentally and physically. I left the forces and adapted to ‘civvie’ life well but around the age of 27 my life and job became more chaotic and as I result of this my mental health suffered. My mind opened the door to Depression, Anxiety and low mood but at the time I didn’t know this. I still struggle with coming to terms with it today but that’s enough about me.
We appreciate that all things ‘Mental Health/Mental Illness’ are a lot harder for guys to speak about, and a lot of men suffer in silence for fear of being branded as ‘weak’ or somehow inferior to their manly status. Is this something you’ve ever experienced yourself and if so, how did you overcome the stigma associated with such?
(laugh) This is all too true in the male world of bravado and banter – once someone knows you have a mental health issue or any issue for that matter they will use it to make fun or try to get one up on you, maybe not straight away but at some point it will happen and you have to be strong to deal with it.
What I try and do is shrug it off, what goes around comes around – but I can completely agree that this isn’t for everyone especially if it is constant abuse or even physical, try to surround yourself with people who will look after you I think if I was ever a victim of serious abuse others would react first. Don’t get me wrong, some of my best mates still rip it into me as they want to treat me ‘normal’ as they put it but I know I can talk to them or offload if I need to, its all about finding a good group and balance of being able to talk about how you feel and making a light joke of it sometimes. I think that a lot of males including myself see mental health as their own weakness and not always a weakness in other males so they don’t want to talk about it as they find it hard to admit to themselves that they suffer. As a young man growing up I maybe to saw mental health as a weakness as I didn’t know any different I wasn’t educated to the issue my older role models would tell me ‘man up’ or ‘get on with it’ at the end of the day it is an illness and no amount of mans’ up will help – if someone suffers with diabetes and needs insulin to feel OK you wouldn’t deny them and tell them to man up! It is the same for someone who suffers with their mental health they need real help not someone who has no idea how it feels telling them get over it.
It’s been an absolute pleasure working with you at #MentalMovement Magazine and a wonderful journey for us to watch your writing blossom, especially with your new found love for interviewing, have you found writing in this way therapeutic? What would you recommend to anyone else struggling with their own mental health?
What do you mean working with…have you had enough of me (laughs)? I recommend doing whatever within reason makes your life happier and easier for you whether that be writing, knitting or boxing just finding that right thing can make so much of a difference. Writing has been a great way to get my thoughts out yes and I really would like to thank #MentalMovement for actually posting my stuff and letting me carry out interviews for them – a lot of people say they will do this and do that but #MentalMovement are the real deal.
Writing when you feel low isn’t the easiest thing for me I always second guess myself and struggle to get out what I want to say or how I want to say it so I tend not to do too much when I feel low. If I do write I try to keep it simple and small so it doesn’t have a negative effect – that goes for most things I can only take so much of anything when I am not 100%. The key is finding what is good for you at that time, everyone is different that’s why it is so complex to deal with it and help others around you who do. #MentalMovement has come about at the right time and for me it was almost meant to be that I joined…who knows, maybe this was all planned out for me – and us.
What do you enjoy most about working with #MentalMovement and what are your aspirations for your future with us?
The best thing about working with #MentalMovement Magazine is being part of something much larger knowing that we are going to make a difference for future generations and letting people who suffer now know that it is OK not be OK. I love to see my final piece after it has been edited and #MM have put their branding look to it, makes a working class hero from the north very proud.
As mentioned above, since writing for #MentalMovement Mag you’ve produced some really great interviews with some really inspiring people such as Lion’s Barber Founder Tom Chapman, Chelsea Footballer Alex Kiwomya and former rugby league player Kris Radlinski MBE. What motivates you to start powerful conversations about Mental Illness with such influential people?
Great question! The thing I like most about interviewing people especially people who are in the public eye is that they have stories to tell other than the one that got them where they are today. Take Kris Rads for example, I grew up watching him and wanting to be like him and one of his really close friends from the sport my favorite player number 9 Terry Newton (who was by no means an angel) took his own life. I know how much this affected me and the town of Wigan but I wanted to know how Kris the person not the Rugby League legend felt and dealt with this. Everyone has a story to tell and I want to tell it in my style that other like-minded people…if you can find any (laugh) who want to read it. I also like to learn about new things like Lion’s Barber club which is a fantastic idea and really well thought out because a lot of people including myself talk to their barber and unload on him about all sorts! So I was chuffed when #MM gave it to me and I got to learn about it. Mental Health is a subject that doesn’t care who you are, what you have or haven’t got or what kind of status you come from it will bring you to your knees there are no two ways about it! You just have to learn from it and by telling how others do this may help to save lives.
We’ve noticed you are actually quite the entrepreneur and recently established your own clothing label ‘Behind A Smile’ – tell us more!
You try and stop me telling you more (laugh) anyone who goes on my social media will know all too well that I am always pushing my brand ‘Behind a Smile’. My mates even rip it into me about that! “Man makes clothing label to spread great message and break down stigma surrounding mental health friends response…stop posting about your stupid clothes…no one wants them (laugh).”
The idea came to me when I was recovering from my first episode of depression. I have always been interested in brands and clothes interested in how powerful of an influence they have. That is when I decided I am going to do it! The hardest part has been finding someone to help me make them on a small scale with no reward as lots want big orders and want lots of return! Luckily Kim at infinite_threads teamed up with me and she is awesome! She helps with my designs, pushing them on her social media and new ideas whilst doing her own designs and products. My ultimate goal will be to get a charity to team up with me so that I can just design the clothes and the profits raised got to that charity to help others I don’t want to be famous or rich I just want to do what I enjoy and see someone I don’t know wearing my clothes and think that came from my brain (laugh).
The current Mental Health system in the UK is a wonderful resource for those who are able to tap into it, but for those who can’t and remain on long waiting lists for therapy – what advice would you give to those who feel they are being let down by the system?
NEVER EVER GIVE UP ON YOU it is OK to be unwell and depressed, it won’t last forever. It will last for longer than you would like or feel like you can deal with but don’t ever give up at least one person needs you and that person will suffer long after you have gone if you do. I have had my own issues with people in the medical profession and I know how it feels believe me I have wanted to give up but when it all comes down to it I can’t and neither can you just hold fast it will pass!
If a huge money fairy landed in your kitchen, handed you £500,000 and told you to make the world a better place, what would you do with the money?
Run… no (laugh) erm that is a real hard question and this is an interview about mental health – I am not sure really and I will be honest this isn’t the first time I have read these questions and I have racked my brain to think of a good answer. In this day and age £500,000 is not a great sum of money so I would probably approach people who I know need help and help them then in turn they might become better off and help others and so on and so on… like a kindness Mexican wave if you will. When all said and done the best things in life are free so I don’t need more money I need more hours in the day so I can see and help all the people I care about so plan B is fund time travel (laugh).
And lastly, what are your plans for the future? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
(clapping) another top draw question that is also tough and I could go on for hours about… my main goal is to accept what has happened to me and not so much fight for it to never happen again but be prepared the best I can if it comes calling, for the past three Septembers now I have gone down through no fault of my own or my life it has just happened and I guess I have to learn to cope with this lots of people cope with far worse.
Secondly I want to see ‘Behind a Smile’ doing well and people wearing it just so that if someone has one of my T-shirts on another person who they don’t know may approach them and say wow that is a great top like and then they both talk about mental health, life, themselves, others anything, anything at all talking is great like Luke Ambler says of ANDYSMANCLUB it is OK to talk. Lastly I wanted to do all the things that I wanted to do before these three years happened I want to get married, travel, be a great uncle, watch rugby with Shrek (dad) help my second family JigsawM2M become the next google all this and more I hope to be alive and that I haven’t lost my battle.
I would just like to say thanks again to #MM and dedicate this piece to my awesome, amazing, sometimes annoying partner in crime Holly she has been and still is on her own journey that we never thought we would end up on but I couldn’t thank her enough! Also to my mum Ruth and all the people who cared for her and looked after her at her lowest plus my second family JigsawM2M, if they hadn’t stuck by me things could have been a lot worse! Finally to Terry Newton who lost his battle I hope where ever he is he is at rest RIP.
Thanks for reading and take it easy x
You can support Matt’s venture by grabbing one of his Tee’s from Behind A Smile here!