As part of #mentalhealthawarenessweek Mens Fashion Magazine founder and Mental Health public speaker Paul McGregor chats to Calm Man about all things Mental Health and the importance of connecting with the modern man.
Paul, you’ve established Men’s Fashion Magazine. Tell us a little bit about your journey.
Where do I start? I was always interested in entrepreneurship, selling clothing on eBay from when I was in School. I still took the ‘normal’ route though, coming away with GCSE’s, getting A Levels at college and then stepping straight into work. It was then where my life turned, as a few months after starting my new job my Dad died from suicide. It was a complete shock, my Dad had ‘everything’ on paper but his death was the wake up call for me. I left my job, started selling more on eBay, and then eventually went on to set up my own online retail store. A few years later I started MFM (mensfashionmagazine.com) almost as a side business to drive traffic and sales to the online retail store, but eventually it outgrew it and I preferred it as a business model at the time. From then I went on to build the site out to what it is today, and have worked for myself and online since that moment I left my first job back in 2009.
Where most people might of held back, you’ve bravely spoken about your personal experiences in order to help others who are suffering. Tell us how you found the courage to do this?
It was the journey I went on after my Dad, and it’s always hard for me to compress a 9 year process into a few paragraphs. But after losing my Dad to suicide, I simply chose to ignore the pain and as most 19 year olds would… I chased short term pleasures. Money, holidays, work, alcohol, clubbing, girls… just doing all I could to distract myself from the grief and pain. A year or two after I found myself in a really low point, a breaking point of merely questioning what I was doing with my life. I felt like I was existing. I seeked helped a few places before (Doctor, Counsellor) and didn’t really get much from it but decided to try something different. My girlfriend at the time (now wife) recommended a holistic therapist she kenw of, and she changed my life around. She listened, got me to open up, led me on a path of reading books, watching videos and just discovering more about myself as time went on. A few years of doing that, I felt that I was ready to start sharing more openly about my experiences with depression and also losing my Dad to suicide. I honestly feel like 5 years ago I would never have imagined doing what I’m doing today.
What do you think needs to happen in order to help break the stigma behind mental health?
For me it comes down to two factors. Education and Awareness. Right now, the awareness is the best it’s ever been. More people are talking about it, more people are becoming open about it and there’s a lot of people in the limelight sharing their own personal battles. As more people talk, it should hopefully give people the feeling of ‘permission’ for them to be able to share how they feel too. I read this the other day and it really resonated with me: “Let’s be the generation that talks so much about mental health that the next generation don’t have to suffer from the stigma”. The second part to that is obviously education, and this is really where prevention will come in. Right now there’s more awareness but there isn’t enough education and prevention. That’s the part that will save lives.
The idea of masculinity is evolving. Do you think men’s mental health is becoming a more open conversation?
It should be, the statistics are shocking. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45 and out of all of the suicides last year, 79% were men. What we’re doing as men isn’t working right now, so it needs to change. The hard thing is the definition of a man today has evolved and has almost become lost. My Grandads generation had more of a black and white definition of what it takes to be a man, where as now it’s almost down to us to figure it out for ourselves (which is hard). I don’t see why men don’t feel like they can open up, we’re all going through something similar!
Engaging with young men is a tough gig. How do you feel you can connect with them?
By opening up and being vulnerable. I’ve found that by me sharing how I feel, it almost gives them an opportunity to open up too. This is why it’s important we do talk, because if no one brings up the subject men will continue to suffer in silence. Vulnerability is strength, not weakness.
Do you make provision for open dialogue about mental health within your own business and if so, how have people responded to that?
With everyone I meet. It’s so important.
What do you think needs to happen in the workplace to help support men’s mental health?
Companies need to offer more support to employees. The statistics are again clear as day when it comes to mental health within the workplace, with mental health being one of the biggest contributing factors to people taking sick days now. Again, companies need to do more to look after the mental wellbeing of their employees. Long term, doing so will only improve their business as well. There’s also a great petition at the moment where hopefully, it will become law that every company has to employ a mental health first aider.
Do you practice mindfulness? If so, how has it benefited you?
A lot, and it’s helped massively. I’ve had anxiety, depression and some panic attacks before and meditation with time has helped a lot. Now I don’t ‘practice’ as much as I should, but I find naturally I’m more mindful anyway. I can find myself feeling relaxed whilst working, walking, reading, commuting… so it’s less me sitting down meditating for 20 minutes now and more me being mindful when I can.
You wrote a great blog post on apps. How do apps engage with young men in ways that other platforms may not?
I think it breaks that barrier, it breaks the ice in a way. Where it’s extremely difficult for a man to say he’s feeling depressed to his mates at the Pub, it’s easier to send it to a friend via Whatsapp. That breaks the ice, and then a beer down the pub with just him will then open up that conversation more. Other apps that I like as well at the moment are therapy apps. We lack good therapy for free on the NHS, and private therapy face to face is expensive, so I think there’s a huge gap there if a company does it right.
What’s next for Paul McGregor?
Who knows? But I’m on a long term mission to change the way mental health is perceived. Short term, I’ll continue creating content, working on my business, being the best Dad, husband, son, grandson and brother I can be and try to stay as present as possible.
For more information about Paul and his incredible work with mental health and to read his blog you can visit www.pmcgregor.com
You can also follow him on social media