Where in the past, conversations around mental health and anxiety would be quickly shut down in social circles, in recent years such topics have come to take up the airtime they deserve. If there was one takeaway from Covid-19-enforced lockdown, it was that mental health is a priority and can no longer be pushed to the periphery. And, just like we go to the gym to work various muscles, we also should be taking daily measures to support our mental health and emotional wellbeing.
But even though these conversations are now taking place at workplaces, homes and friendship circles alike, there’s still a stigma that surrounds men and talk of mental health. It’s something the UFC’s Paddy “The Baddie” Pimblett is looking to change, having expressed a personal connection to the topic.
Taking out his third consecutive win, Pimblett was crowned the winner of the fight against Jordan Leavitt at UFC London. But where most would have expected a speech that saw the prized fighter basking in their moment of glory and highlighting their individual strengths, Pimblett instead used his victory as an opportunity to share the importance of speaking up about mental health, while removing the stigma associated with mental illness.
Following his victory in the octagon, Pimblett revealed that just hours before the fight, he found out he had lost a friend to suicide. “I woke up on Friday morning at four a.m. to a message that one of my friends back home had killed himself,” Pimblett told the crowd.
“This is five hours before my weigh-in. So Ricky, lad, that’s for you…There’s a stigma in this world that men can’t talk. Listen, if you’re a man and you’ve got weight on your shoulders, and you think the only way you can solve it is by killing yourself, please speak to someone. Speak to anyone…I know I’d rather my mate cry on my shoulder than go to his funeral next week. So please, let’s get rid of this stigma, and men, start talking.”
In a post-fight interview with BT Sport, Pimblett went on to reiterate his message as he told reporters that in the UK, suicide is the biggest killer of men aged under 40. Here in Australia, one in eight men will experience depression and one in five will experience anxiety at some stage of their lives. Each year, over 65,000 Australians make a suicide attempt but the data presents an overwhelming gender disparity. Suicide is the leading cause of death for men aged 18-44 in most countries around the globe. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, of the 3,318 suicides in 2019, 75 per cent were men.
As Pimblett expressed, “You’re not weak, you’re stronger than anyone. If you can go and talk to your mate and say lad, this is affecting me, you’re stronger than anyone, I don’t care what anyone says. People think bottling stuff up makes it better, I’ve been there…I eventually spoke to someone, and as soon as you speak to someone it’s like a weight’s off your shoulders.”
Powerful. Emotive. Inspiring ♥️— #UFCLondon on BT Sport (@btsportufc) July 23, 2022
Paddy Pimblett using his platform to spread an important message ????
Please take a few minutes and listen to this… pic.twitter.com/mIGkDTW4Ff
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide or self-harm, help and support is available. Call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or text 0477 131 114 for 24/7 support where you can access confidential one-to-one-text with a trained Lifeline crisis supporter.