September 8th, 2016

Mo Bro Nic Newling shares the importance of having open, unafraid conversations.

Speaking Up
Mo Bro Nic Newling shares his powerful story below and is featured in Movember’s World Suicide Prevention Day video. Too many men are "toughing it out," keeping their feelings to themselves and struggling in silence. Mo Bro Nic reminds us that when things get tough, we need to talk. Reach out, take action, and look after ourselves and each other. Join us in starting the conversation.

Q: What’s been a moment in your life that’s made you think differently about men’s health?
Nic: Two moments spring to mind. Am I allowed two? I grew up in quite a macho environment in the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia where everyone was into sports and surfing except for me. My older brother was athletic, well known, and well liked. Popular, strong, and handsome. He hid his depression and anxiety I believe because he was fearful of it and of how he thought people would judge him if he spoke about it. He took is life shortly before his 18th birthday. No one saw it coming. I realized through that horrible experience that I wasn’t the only one battling with mental illnesses. I learnt that mental illness has nothing to do with weakness and it doesn’t discriminate as to who it can affect. I wish he could’ve open up more to me.
The other experience that changed the way I think about men’s health was through a conversation I had with a stranger. I firmly believe that men need to talk and listen so much more than we already do. I think these outdated stereotypes of ‘being a man’ by hiding our emotions are hurting us greatly. A man approached me and offered a different angle on things. I’d just finished a talk at a suicide prevention event and he walked up to me and casually opened up about his experiences with recently leaving a long career in the military, about enduring mental illness hardships the whole time he was there, and about the difficulty in finding other men to talk about it with. I presumed that perhaps the rough and tough nature of armed servicemen stationed in war zones precluded them from sharing their emotions, insecurities, and fears with each other. He interrupted my thought to say, “Oh, no. I didn’t mean it was difficult to share in the military. I mean it’s difficult to share now that I’m in the civilian world”. Apparently they were all so close like brothers in the military and would share everything but back here everyone seems so closed off.
That moment made me realize that we’ve got a lot more work to do in breaking down these barriers to talking and help seeking and often these barriers are invisible.
Q: What’s a philosophy or motto you try to live by?
Nic: Take a chance. Things don’t often change by themselves.
Q: What’s one piece of advice you would give to your younger self?
Nic: I’d say that you really don’t have to be as scared as you think you do. There are so many people around you who understand or are willing to understand your situation. Talking about mental illness can seem hard at first but not talking about it is so much harder. This will pass and you’ll gain strength through it.
Q: What do you do to stay healthy?
Nic: As much as I’m able to I eat healthy and go for regular walks. For my mental health I stay connected to the people around me and speak up when I feel a need to.
Q: What key challenges do you think men face today? Do you and your friends discuss men’s health?
Nic: I think men face a number of challenges today that they probably didn’t have to face as much in generations gone by. There is so much more attention on the ‘perfect body’ for men now as there has been for a long time for women. I don’t believe men are necessarily as well prepared to discuss and seek support for issues that might be considered ‘weak’ or ‘unmanly’. People are now waking up to the fact that men also experience eating disorders and body dysmorphia. Men can also struggle with feelings of inadequacy and yes, men also experience mental illnesses. We’re really only hurting ourselves when we stigmatize getting help for these treatable conditions. I’ve seen time and time again in my travels that so many more men are actually really keen on talking about these issues now more than ever. For many of us the first step is simply a matter of being given the permission to speak up and get that conversation happening.
Q: Why do you think it’s important to participate in Movember?
Nic: Movember is uniquely placed to make a world of difference to men. For far too long men have had to struggle with issues like prostate cancer and mental illness without the ability to speak up and get support from their friends. So many of these issues are far better treated with early intervention and that’s exactly what having conversations can encourage. Movember strips back the awkwardness, acknowledges that men aren’t excluded from needing support too, and raises much needed funds in a fun way to support charities making a serious difference.
Q: How are you spreading awareness of men’s health challenges?
Nic: I’m very fortunate to have found my passion in life and to now be able to pursue it. When I was in high school on a scholarship my life went in a totally different direction to what I was expecting after I became unwell. I was in and out of hospital, on some heavy medications, and was plagued with constant thoughts of ending my life. I ended up dropping out of school early and I never went to college.
Fast forward some years later and things couldn’t be better. I received the right diagnosis, got the right treatment, and have never looked back. I found my calling in talking about mental illnesses through sharing my personal story and I absolutely love doing so. I’m so grateful to have had opportunities to do this through the media and on stages around the world. I couldn’t be happier to say that I’m very soon to be moving to America to be spreading the word there too. My story is only one voice amongst many millions but I believe that when I get amongst people and just have a chat to an audience it can help to spark a meaningful, ongoing conversation. It’s not about wrapping it up in a perfect package and sugar coating it. It’s really about having genuine, meaningful, helpful conversations and encouraging other people to do the same. Whether we know it or not, it’s something we really are all capable of and it’s essential that we take the chance to do more of it.
Q: Who has been a significant role model in your life and what have they taught you?
Nic: I’ve had a fair few but I must say that my whole family reaches the top of that list. They’ve taught me that love and togetherness can achieve things we never thought possible.