Mark Mathie, owner of Wickedbodz gym, gets real about conquering the stigma surrounding mental health, writes Get it’s Kathleen Loxton
As owner of a gym, and a successful fitness trainer, you wouldn’t expect the tough and muscular Mark to be so frank about mental health. However, this is where the problem began and where Mark’s story starts. Mark recalled the initial shock of those around him when he spoke out about his mental health, saying, “I was probably the last person anyone would expect to be dealing with anxiety… I’ve had clients training with me at my business for 15 years, who have lent on me for various problems and I’ve always been the go-to to manage things. So, it was quite a shock for a lot of people to know I could do what I do, but also be dealing with that.’’
The mission behind Mark speaking up on social media, and at his workplace, was a powerful one. ‘’I shared my story and how I deal with it, and dealt with it for many years, without anyone really knowing anything about it. The reason I want to help is to share and let people know that you can speak up, don’t keep your head in the sand,’’ said Mark.
Response to Mark’s story came in quickly and continues to build traction. Mark said of the feedback, “There’s been so much response, not just from people within the gym. I’ve had many private messages from people that have followed my fitness career and things that I’ve done, and they respected that I was open about that. It’s been a wakeup call for a few of them to go see someone and address any problems. It’s been fantastic… it’s been incredible for me to see how one little piece of social media can help so many people. If social media is used for the right purpose, it can be a brilliant thing!’’
It was a series of events that encouraged Mark to speak up. “I just got sick of it; when you’ve lived with it like I have and had some really dark times you do. It was a period of 1 to 2 months of just continuing to hear about people taking their lives. It’s something that can be controlled, if they had seen someone… I’ve been there too though, so I understand where they’re coming from,” said Mark.
Mark noted the long-term goal is, “For people to be aware, be aware of other’s behaviour and if they are acting out of sorts. I want people to be much more comfortable speaking about it.’’ This is reflected in his personal life too, as Mark’s partner has been a pillar of strength and is now acutely aware of the signs that signal when Mark may be struggling.
The importance of having someone to talk to is not a matter Mark takes lightly. Mark explained, “Once you can speak about it, and you have someone to lean on when you’re having those dark times, it’s a much easier day to get through.’’
Also speaking about checking in on others, Mark added, “Much rather your friend tell you to ‘bugger off, there’s nothing wrong with me’ than to lose one.’’
“It ain’t weak to speak’’ is a message from LIVIN that Mark encourages, as is seeking professional help. Mark said of dealing with anxiety and depression, “It can be prevented, it can’t be stopped, and it can’t be ‘fixed’, but just a simple conversation can stop someone taking their own life.’’
Now this discussion is happening, and the gym’s members are talking about the concerns they have for their loved ones. But this is a conversation that needs to be happening across Australia.
The statistics in Australia remain shocking, it’s time to look at the facts:
- Last year news.com.au reported that suicide is the leading cause of death in men aged 15 to 44.
- News.com.au also reported of the 3,128 deaths from suicide in 2017, 75 per cent of those were men.
- The Black Dog Institute stated “72 per cent of males don’t seek help for mental disorders.”
- Earlier this year theconversation.com published a piece by Professor Anthony Jorm (Professor emeritus, University of Melbourne), which investigated research that found male diagnoses of anxiety and depression “have risen in all age groups, with the biggest increases among 15 to 34 year olds.”
We need men like Mark to continue to share their powerful stories, their power coming from the inner strength they show in doing so. Come on Get it girls, let’s also take the time to have this talk with our loved ones, and to see someone if we’re struggling ourselves, because that’s what will make us truly mighty.