James: I'm Embarrassed About How I Used To Approach Mental Health

20 April 2017, 12:20 | Updated: 20 April 2017, 13:44

On LBC's Mental Health Day, James O'Brien explains how embarrassed he is about how he used to approach the topic of mental health.

Mental Health Matters is the important message on LBC today as Global, LBC's parent company, joins with Heads Together to get people talking about mental health and wellbeing.

Heads Together: Find Out More About Why It's #OKToSay

James O'Brien feels very passionately about this - and in this clip he explains why. 

James said: "I think the world is full of people who used to think that mental health issues were just a case of pulling your socks up and getting on with it. I am so embarrassed to tell you that I used to be like that.

"Of all the things I've changed my mind about in the years that I've had the pleasure of listening to you, I think that probably mental health would be very near the top of the list of things I'm most embarrassed, obesity would be at the very top, and they're linked of course."

He went on: "I would be like 'my kids don't need wellness classes, my kids don't need this, they don't need that, they don't need the other, they just need this, and that'.

"It's just not true. The more you talk about stuff it, the better it gets. Part of the reason why, I think, in this country, our children suffer more than they do in most other countries from these sort of conditions is because of the pressure we've put upon them to be happy, believe it or not."

James added: "It's 2017. I would say that up until the last couple of years, well, you know, that if we go back to Dickens's time, it was a tourist attraction, Bedlam.

"You could go and have a look through the window at lunatics in the asylum. My goodness, the progress we've made.

"Government, I'm afraid, has dropped the ball recently, a lot of its provision of mental health care, a lot of the benefits that were paid out, obviously they're seeking to stop the paying out. We'll park that for the time being."

James continued: "What made you realise that your mental health, was as important, if not more important, than your physical health, because that, to me, is the clincher.

"I always think of the World's Strongest Man programme on the television, I don't know where I get these analogies from either, but you know when someone lucky enough to be possessed, someone lucky enough not to be suffering from mental health, looks at someone who is, and says 'pull your socks up and pull yourself together'.  

"That, to me, is the equivalent of me turning up at the World's Strongest Man, putting on the big leather jerkin, there's a sight you could never un-see, getting the rope attached to an articulated lorry, and then trying to pull it for a 100m.  

"Then you'd be on the sidelines going 'oh for God's sake, pull yourself together, pull your socks up, and pull yourself together.  Why can't you pull that articulated lorry for 100 metres?' 

"Answer is, that I am biologically incapable of doing so. So for people suffering from depression, and other mental health issues, for us to sit on the sidelines saying 'oh, pull yourself together, pull yourself together, you can do it' is exactly the same as trying to tell a child that they should be able to pull a 100 tonne truck for a hundred metres.  

"Isn't it? That that's the penny dropped for me. That's when mental health and physical health become exactly the same issue. You cannot tell someone to become physically stronger, they can become physically stronger, but they can never become strong enough to pull a lorry from here to Tescos.  

"So all the, all the shouting about 'eat less, exercise more', all the shouting about 'pull yourself together', all the shouting about 'molly coddling kids', it's insane. Pardon the pun."