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NEWS EXTRA: Bristol entrepreneur shares story on mental health to encourage men to speak up

To continue our coverage of Mental health Awareness week we have been speaking to a man from Bristol, who is wanting to use his experiences with mental health to encourage other men to feel comfortable sharing their issues and concerns.

Blue O'Connor, suffered from high levels of social anxiety from when he was in his teenage years.

Around five years ago, while in his mid-twenties, Blue found himself suffering from the worst levels of mental health he had ever experienced, due to being in a job he did not enjoy and other factors.

He did not know what was happening, saying: "I didn't have the emotional intelligence to know what was going on."

"I was quite blurry in the brain, and I felt like I was in a deep hole. It was a downward spiral and it got worse and worse every week."

Luckily for Blue, he was in a financial position where he could take himself out of the situation he was in and travel the world.

Upon returning to the UK he sought to better his mental health and use his experience to also help others.

"There's a massive shame element attached to men's mental health and boundaries are being broken, but there's still a long way to go.

"In certain demographics, it's more challenging than others. If you find yourself in a very macho environment then talking about mental health is still quite hard and quite shameful.

"It's a case of just being the first to talk about it. And then I think you'll be surprised who else comes forward. I think once you show a bit of vulnerability or authenticity other men reach out as well."

And this is exactly what Blue is hoping to do by sharing his story - encourage men talking more about their mental health.

When asked what advice he'd give to his former self he simply said: "To reach out and speak to someone you trust. It's okay to seek help."

Now he's personally in a healthier state Blue has been volunteering as a youth mentor, working with young men to share mental health experiences, and to show young boys and men that there is no shame if you have a mental health issue.

He also aims to address the need for men to be comfortable with the idea of being vulnerable, to counteract the many misconceptions there still are around how men should act and behave

Along with this Blue has launched his own line of ethical male grooming products, under a new business called Kings. 

"I struggled to find grooming products that were a good fit for my values and lifestyle. There seemed to be no quality aftershaves that were ethically produced and cruelty-free. And there were definitely no aftershaves that ‘gave back’ to the causes close to my heart.

Kings won’t just offer aftershaves, creams and face washes that make men look great and feel confident. Our mission to ‘empower men to live healthier, happier lives’ will drive every action we take as a company.
“Our positive impact won’t stop there. My aim for Kings is that the brand itself will encourage men to challenge the unhealthy, unrealistic ideas society holds about masculinity. Ideas that often contribute to men’s anxiety and low mood.
“We want to empower men to think independently, break the mold and live by their own definition of ‘being a man’.”

Click here to listen to the full interview with Blue.

If you are looking for more information about Mental Health Awareness week click here 

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