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BIG THINKING

A stark but firm reminder of the importance of mental health

Linda Balkema
Consumer Insight
Hall & Partners Health

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We’re looking at different strategies on how to start sensitive and often difficult conversations … how to open up and start communicating.

After his appearance on ITV’s This Morning we spoke to Ben, a London-based Blogger and Instagram Influencer, who uses a rather unusual au naturel approach to get the conversation started. With 21.5k followers on Instagram, we’re keen to explore his thoughts on social media and mental health.

 

Dressing down is a bold approach when trying to initiate a conversation on a serious topic. How did you come up with the idea?

I started writing around the areas that interested me but, having previously done some work on the increasing value of social influencers, I knew that I needed a USP to engage an audience and make them aware of the message I was sharing. Mental health is such an important topic for us all to be aware of. But, let's be honest, it's not very sexy or glamourous and it's easier to spend our time on the things we’re more familiar with. So while I had the idea to share my message, I still needed to spend some time scratching my head to find the hook.

One day I was looking back at some images I’d posted on my personal Instagram account and saw a picture that I’d posted from a holiday in Yosemite National Park in America about four years ago. I was on a trek with a friend in the most beautiful setting, the sun was shining down into this natural valley with a stream running through.

Boys being boys, we took off all of our clothes and took a picture standing in the stream gazing off into the sunset! One way or another the picture got engagement – some people laughed, some abused us, some found it artistic – but whichever way I looked at it, I could see people were engaging.

At the same time, the image represented so much of what I was writing about …I was being creative, free and vulnerable, and I certainly wasn't following the crowd! As a result, I decided to produce similar images to empower and represent the message I try to get across through my writing. I pieced two and two together and the concept of @thenakedprofessor was born!

 


We all have a duty to look after our mind and to get it functioning as best as we can, regardless of whether we’re suffering from mental health issues or not


This may be an unusual way to bring awareness to what is undoubtedly a very serious topic. However, if it’s my images that first attract people to my blog then that's a great tool for me to utilise. The key for me then is to keep my followers engaged with my message, above and beyond the images I share – that’s the branding challenge I find myself continuously working on.

 

Through connecting with your audience, what have you recognised as the main drivers of mental health problems?

All my personal and educational studies tell me that challenges such as anxiety and depression are created from our thinking patterns. I read recently that anxiety occurs because of a story we’re telling ourselves about something that may happen in the future. That’s a very good summary if you ask me.

I believe we all have a duty to look after our mind and to get it functioning as best as we can, regardless of whether we’re suffering from mental health issues or not. We wouldn't say to someone who’s in good physical shape to stop going to the gym. We can all keep getting better and I strongly believe our minds can and should be worked on continuously.

 

What was the key trigger for you to start reaching out to audiences about mental health?

I had some physical issues around sex which, after a lot of soul searching and some help from a hypnotherapist, I realised almost certainly originating from my mindset and thinking patterns – it was a mental health issue and something that I subconsciously created myself.

This is a perfect example of why we need to get our minds working better and why meditation can be of such great value to so many. It allows us to become aware of our thoughts and, in doing so, managing them better.

 

Can you share any great learnings from campaigning for a sensitive cause?

I have a burning desire to make a massive difference to this world. While engagement with my blog has been great so far, I can’t help but think this is just the beginning.

I’m also very excited about launching my podcast channel soon. The idea of the podcast is to share real and vulnerable stories from celebrities around their mental health journey. Despite how it may appear on Instagram, everyone – even celebs – have had challenges to overcome and a heartfelt story to tell.


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