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Since reaching stardom more than a decade ago, Professor Green has not only achieved several chart topping singles and produced a Platinum-certified album, but become a well-known voice in the world of mental health advocacy.
The rapper, real name Stephen Manderson, ultimately became a mental health advocate after releasing a song about his father’s death. He was 24 when he lost his dad to suicide.
Speaking to UNILAD, the Read All About It rapper said that while he never expected to become a mental health campaigner, he’s glad he did.
The 37-year-old explained, ‘I think I was the least likely candidate to start that conversation when I did, and I walked into it somewhat naively because I’d written a song about my dad’s suicide. I didn’t think I’d end up becoming an advocate for mental health and doing all the work I’ve done to open up the floor for that conversation. I’m very f*cking happy, ultimately, that I did.’
Since then, Manderson has published a Times best-selling book, Professor Green: Suicide and Me, and visited primary schools alongside the likes of Prince William to speak to children about mental health.
When he was younger, the rapper said mental health was something that was never discussed in his family, but feels like times are slowly but surely changing.
He told UNILAD:
Mental health wasn’t a phrase I ever heard when I was a kid. ‘Mental’ was just something that people got called at the time, and it was derogatory. There was no understanding around what may have been a problem for someone because there was no education. I think that it is spoken about at schools now; I’ve been into schools – once with Prince William – to discuss mental health with children and we were able to have a conversation about it. These were primary school children. If you’d have tried to come into my primary school and discussed mental health, we wouldn’t have had a clue.
The taboos and stereotypes, the feeling of not wanting to talk and be open, and the lack of understanding that vulnerability isn’t a weakness, it’s actually a strength and it only becomes a weakness when you try to hide how you feel – I think that will die out as we do. […] We talk about generational differences, and a lot of things are learned behaviours. The less they are taught, the less they are learnt, the less they will exist, and hopefully we will move into a better health.
With this in mind, he said he plans on being open with his newborn son, Slimane Ray Manderson, whom he shares with girlfriend Karima McAdams, about mental health, and wants to make him feel like he can always be open about his feelings.
My sensitivity will hopefully be passed on [to my son] by being as open and honest as I am with the people I trust with him. I don’t want him to feel like he can’t talk about something, and I think that’s the sort of hangover of the stiff, British upper lip.
It’s got us through some really hard times, and there’s a reason for it, like there’s a reason for most things if you trace it back far enough, but is it necessary in today’s society?
Manderson went on to say he believes there are three steps to being more open and accepting of mental health illnesses: awareness; understanding; action.
Talking about how we’re currently ‘in a state of awareness’, he said, ‘A good thing that we have is that the generations after me, because I’m an old git now, want action. They’re not happy to just have a conversation, they’re not happy to just shout about things; they want things actioned and these things need to be actioned in order for them to change.’
‘I think we’re getting closer to a place of understanding. Statistically things look better, but look at what we’ve all just been through. We’ve been through varying degrees of suffering thanks to the last year and a half,’ he continued.
Manderson went on to endorse therapy as a tool to help people with their mental health, and said that a person shouldn’t be ‘at a point of crisis’ to access these kinds of services.
The rapper explained, ‘I think therapy needs to be normalised. You shouldn’t be at a point of crisis to use therapy; therapy’s amazing when you’re in perfect mental health because you can develop a mental tool kit so, while you’re not suffering, you can become resilient without having to suffer trauma.’
As well as therapy, he added that humour can be a good way of coping with things:
There’s so many things that are still taboo, but things are a lot better and people are getting a lot better at taking the mick out of each other. That’s always a good way to break the ice – to deal with things with humour.
I think Ricky Gervais gives an amazing explanation as to why standup comedy is so important, and how much it needs to be protected and the freedom of speech within it. That’s how we deal with things; with humour. He talks about when someone passed and what happened at the church. It’s just important to be able to laugh about things. That’s kind of what got me through generally.
I’m not the type of person to take the piss out of someone else and get arsey when someone takes the mick out of me, or get angry if someone makes a joke out of mental health. You know? There are things that are funny, albeit the situation isn’t.
Another way Manderson suggested lightening the mood is by giving people flowers – something he was inundated with following the birth of his son in March. The rapper was pleasantly surprised to receive a bouquet from his friend Stevie Parle, and is now campaigning for more men to gift their friends with flowers in partnership with Urban Flower Company to support Funnyhowflowersdothat.co.uk’s campaign, ‘You B’OKquet mate?’.
Addressing how men receiving flowers is currently ‘taboo’, Manderson says he thinks this is ‘largely down to male stereotypes‘. He explained, ‘It’s so normal for us to give our partners flowers to show love, or to say we’re sorry. We send flowers to funerals, we send flowers when children are born – my house looked like a florist when my son was born. I wish people would have staggered the deliveries because sadly they all went at the same time! We actually ran out of vases, and it was wonderful.’
‘Flowers actually do bring joy. I’ve only ever been sent flowers by one of my male friends and that was Stevie Parle, and I’ve only ever sent them myself to one male friend. When he got them he was like, ‘That’s beaut’, ‘That’s so nice of you, ‘None of my male friends ever send me flowers,’ the Lullaby rapper continued.
He further blamed ‘male bravado’ for the reason men don’t give flowers to their male friends, and said that the problem is that ‘we apply behaviours to genders, which sounds like a really simple problem to fix, but it isn’t because we’d have to unpick the fabrics of society’.
‘If we are able to stop applying behaviours to genders, then it wouldn’t have to be feminine to send flowers to a male friend, you wouldn’t have to be feminine to receive them, and could be openly happy about them,’ the 37-year-old added.
As to what he’d say to men who think bouquets are too feminine, he said, ‘Try building a bouquet. It’s hard f*cking graft.’
The LIMITED EDITION BOUQUET – PROFESSOR GREEN X UFC bouquets are now available to purchase via the Urban Flower Company, and will be until July 20th. All proceeds will be donated to mental health charity, Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM).
If you’re experiencing distressing thoughts and feelings, the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is there to support you. They’re open from 5pm–midnight, 365 days a year. Their national number is 0800 58 58 58 and they also have a webchat service if you’re not comfortable talking on the phone.
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