My Five Tips on Mental Health – by Simon Whitehouse (someone who knows a thing or two about it – believe me).
I’m CEO of Art Partner, and ex-CEO of JW Anderson (LVMH group). Powerful positions in the fashion/luxury sector, and roles in which impossible to be successful unless you know your shit (sorry for the swearing Mum!) and bring hard work into performance every single day.
I’m also Simon Whitehouse: Human Being. Husband. Son. Brother. Godfather. Cousin. Niece/Nephew. Friend…
But you know what?
We’re all just human beings at the end of the day – aren’t we?
We’re all fragile. We all go through shit, We’re all insecure. We all swim around in a well of our own anxieties. We’re all just figuring it out as we go along – some quicker, some slower, some more confident, some less. Am I right or wrong?
This is what makes us all just human beings. We’re all unique. And guess what – we’re all beautiful and perfectly imperfect for it!!
The higher you rise in life and career and maturity, the more one realises the levelling factor of the human being, and the importance of people. The importance of health and family and friends. And the fact that all our families have issues and secrets, none more or less crazy than the next one. We all have highs. We all have lows. Be kind. Be humble. It’s that simple.
I suffered depression. In fact, I’ve lived with it some 15-20 years, like a big black dog living by my side. Moreover, I conquered suicidal tendencies 10 years ago and self-developed the mechanisms to cope with these dark evil invaders in my mind (and yep – they’re still there pretty much each and everyday but I got them under control now ;-)). More precisely, I almost committed suicide in 2009 and if my best friend (you know who you are) didn’t pick up his phone that night then I wouldn’t be here today. Fact. (Click here to read more about that).
In parallel, my brother (one, only and elder) suffered a complete mental breakdown almost 25 years ago and has never recovered since. He lives with a form of mild schizophrenia and has done ever since. He’s my heart beat, my inspiration, why I started “Simon’s Rocky Road” (@simonsrockyroad) and ran all those goddamn 100 miles (twice, alone, non-stop) from New York to the Rocky Steps Philadelphia for the Mind Charity. We have raised tens of thousands of $ and awareness of mental health (my bro & I used to watch the Rocky films together when we were young and both mentally healthy). By the way, we want to raise more $ (click here to donate!!!) and I still dream and hope I will run those goddamn 100 miles again one day!!
That’s what I mean when I say I know a thing or two about mental health. And I for one believe that the more we open up and talk about it, the less that people who are suffering feel ashamed, isolated and hopeless. We really are in this all together.
And you know goddamn what? I’m not ashamed in any way of my own thoughts or of my brother. In fact, the opposite. If he can survive with his extreme limitations (Jesus, God bless his cotton socks) and if I can survive and thrive not only despite my limitations but because of them then I’ll take that. I’ll take that and I’ll keep moving forward. Relentless forward motion. Pure Positive Energy. It’s the only way to go. Blood, sweat and tears every day…
And if by sharing my thoughts and feelings it gives someone – anyone – just one person a feeling of empathy, solidarity and catharsis in what they are experiencing in their own mind right now then I’m willing to take that chance and open my heart. And if in the knowledge that holding a high profile role in a high profile industry compounds and impacts this in a positive way then even better. If I am open enough to share my feelings then I hope you will too.
So, let’s go…
Image: Simon with his brother.
In this week of mental health awareness in the UK I give you my 5 personal tips on depression and mental health:
Open your goddamn mouth!! We’re all suffering. We’re all weird in our own mind. We’re all just trying to get through the daily grind. Jesus Christ!! All the thoughts you’re having are totally normal, no matter how dark and evil you may think they are!!! Just open your big fat mouth and talk. Talk to family. Talk to strangers. Talk to colleagues. Talk to friends. If you don’t like what they say (a lot of people are uneducated and don’t know what to say) then don’t give up. Keep going!! Talk to anyone and keep talking until you find someone that really listens and understands you. Believe me, you will find them. And believe me, it WILL help you.
Motto: open your goddamn mouth!!
Don’t underestimate their love. You will drive them crazy. They will not understand you and they will say things that make you feel worse. But they love you. And you love them. Don’t judge them on their ignorance. Judge them on their love and compassion and their belief that they are doing the right thing for you. They will be the rock that you will build on, and they will understand your thoughts and feelings in time. Be patient, for it’s a joy when you join together eventually in mutual understanding.
Motto: trust your best friends/family!!
I Had a Black Dog, His Name was Depression by Matthew Johnstone.
This book saved my life. Well, it played a huge part in understanding my life and therefore coping with it. It takes 5 minutes to read, is mainly illustrations, but its power is incredible. It explains so simply how to cope with depression from the point of view of the sufferer and his/her family/friends. It moved me so much that years ago after reading it I reached out to the author and told him so, and I had such a beautiful dialogue with a really genius person (Matthew Johnstone, the author). Please: buy, read, and share this book.
Motto: buy and read this book!!
If you’re able to (and I know sometimes it’s hard) then give all your efforts into your work or your purpose, whatever that may be. It’s a saving grace. It’s a distraction. It’s a positive energy. It’s a cocoon. And I know those days when you can’t face the world (we all have them, pretty much every day!!!) and lay in bed wondering how you’re going to do it (am I the only one??) – well, those are the days when you need to jump out of bed the most!!! My Dad (rip) always used to say: “when any animal or beast is off it’s legs then it’s days are numbered – it’s time, it’s over”. And as morbid as it sounds, that night in 2009 when I totally gave up on life I remembered these words and the out of body visualisation of being in the sky and looking down at me writhing around on the floor like a sick poisoned snake. Wow. When you’re off your legs it’s time, it’s over. So GET UP. GET OUT. MOVE. When you least feel like moving is when you need to move the most!!!! I think of this most mornings. And I certainly thought this when going through hypothermia and hallucinations during those goddamn ultramarathons to the Rocky Steps!! So get up off your ass and get going!!!!
Motto: GET UP and KEEP MOVING FORWARD!!
Vocations help. Honestly, it’s massive. It chills out the brain. Easier said than done, and sometimes I sit there for minutes, hours, sometimes crying, just trying to gain the strength to start something (crazy considering I’ve run several ultramarathons but can easily be crippled face down for an hour by the prospect of just jogging for 30 mins). The mind cripples and the body shows it. But the thoughts are normal. Fight it. Fight it with all your might. MOVE. GO. Personally I like jogging, swimming and gardening. Swimming particularly is like a form of meditation for me. When I’m doing these activities my mind switches off and only thinks about the task in hand (which is therapy for a warped mind!!). Gardening I used to do with my Mom (rip) and each time I feel the leaves, the earth, the plants, and smell the flowers, I feel her presence. Nothing else soothes the mind like that. But it could be anything. Whatever takes your brain for a walk.
Motto: follow a passion and let it take you away for a moment (if you can do it you’ll be surprised how easy you forget your problems!!)
So, there you go. I hope this touches and helps someone, somewhere. And God bless every single human being that takes the time to read this.
By the way – I’m not a doctor. I’m just speaking from experience and what’s worked for me. The best recommendation I can give is to seek professional/medical advice. The Mind charity also has a wealth of information on their website. In writing this I’m just doing my best so don’t judge me OK!!!
I’m fortunate enough to have the support of a wonderful wife, friends and family. And not to mention my work family of Art Partner. We’re a progressive agency and we feel in tune with today’s moral and cultural notes. To be in my role and to have the support to be able to share my experiences and feelings in this piece of writing, while same time pushing the boundaries of creativity and sustainability in fashion/luxury imagery and content – yes, I feel blessed. Art Partner’s #earthpartner initiative is progressing the sustainability conversation into and beyond fashion productions, and of this I feel very proud, and I feel runs parallel to the values of Eco-Age.
Let me just end by saying – I love Livia Firth. And I love Eco-Age. Their energy is intrinsic, electric and incredible. I believe in the purpose of Eco-Age and support it whole heartedly. Their values and ethos connect with me as a professional and, more importantly, as a human being. And all this tricky weird stuff happening in the world today transcends business and touches us all as a complete human race. Sustainability, cultural diversity, body acceptance, mind acceptance (and the lack of understanding of it all) – it’s all there – and so we find ourselves all fighting to survive and thrive in our own unique way.
It’s been a pleasure for me to share some of my feelings and experiences, and may God bless all your cotton socks.
With much love,