October marks Black History Month in the UK, a time to celebrate the culture and achievements of people from the black community, as well as highlight the changes that still need to happen in our society.
According to Mind Black Mental Health findings, despite being more likely to suffer with poor mental health, black adults are the least likely of any ethnic group to seek mental health treatment.
On the latest episode of Let’s Talk, our guests discussed reasons for this and how organisations such as ourselves could improve on how we can allow for everyone to feel they can come to us for support.
We were joined by Football Blacklist Award winner Duke Harrison-Hunter, who was awarded in 2020 for his work in the Community in Portsmouth, as well as ‘Mr Funky Fit’ Frank Mangna; An author, personal trainer and founder of ‘Funky Fit Boxing’.
As well as his role in the Portsmouth football community, Duke is a mental health first aider, and uses his role and mentoring as a chance to talk about mental health.
This came from his own experiences of not knowing that his own struggles were mental health related: “I thought I was just angry all the time, I didn’t know what mental health was. People used to annoy me, I’d want them to leave me alone, but I didn’t know it was my own mental health I was fighting with.
“I was in addiction for twenty years, and I had serious depression, I didn’t realise because I was mixing up my mental health with the drugs. When I was high, I was fine, then when I wasn’t I didn’t look at it as mental health I looked at it as ‘I need more drugs’.”
It wasn’t until Duke found his way into rehab that he opened up to the possibility of living with depression, and it was the counsellors there that allowed him to discover more: “I found out so much about myself. I carried a ball resentment in my belly for 20 years, it was like a rock.
“All she [Duke’s counsellor] done was chip away and chip away each session. I was crying, I was happy, I hated her guts then I loved her. I was going through all these emotions because she was working on the resentments I was carrying. Little bit by little bit, we don’t have to force big chunks of mental health onto people.”
Since an early age, Frank was an athlete, and he described his relationship with sport as ‘masking’ any mental health issues he might have. This was until he reached a tipping point when he was 19: “I lost my Dad when I was 19. I didn’t mourn my Dad because he was never really there for us, it was more like internal anger. I always had that feeling he was going to turn up one day, lay everything on the table and apologise. I didn’t know that I had that in my mind all the time until he died.
“I was angry and I just find myself hanging with the wrong people, that ‘finding me’ was a very masculine ‘finding me’. I wanted to prove myself and hang with the hardest people, until one day I squared up with my Uncle and he was a boxer. He just looked at me, laughed and said ‘you think you can fight’.”
It was here that Frank’s Uncle took him to a boxing gym for the first time, and despite being ‘outclassed’ in the first spar he was put in, the coach at the gym told him: “This is make or break for you, either you come back here and shape yourself up as a man, or you walk out and end up dead or in prison.”
Now the founder of ‘Funky Fit Boxing’, the sport gave Frank a way to work on his mental wellbeing in his own way: “That was the thing that changed me. I wasn’t good enough to compete at any high level but I was good enough to learn the skill and the discipline, it got me back into my fitness and my responsible mindset.
“This is why I always dream of creating something that could be accessed by the everyday person. Like, how can the woman who drops her kids off at the school access boxing? And that is how I came up with Funky Fit Boxing.”
If you feel affect by anything discussed on this week’s podcast, call the Solent Mind Support Line on 023 8017 9049, or access the webchat on our website.
With four brilliant Universities in our area, we wanted to ensure the student population moving in our cities in the coming weeks know the support available to them with this toolkit.
Open Day of wellbeing activities from PositiveMinds on September 7th.
The latest episode of Let's Talk Mate, covered topics to do with the relationship between masculinity and mental health.