Mario Falcone has opened up on his vow to teach his two-year-old son, Parker, about mental health to help erase the stigma surrounding the topic.
He has teamed up with charity Papyrus, which helps people under 35 who are battling with their mental health.
Former TOWIE star Mario, 32, says finding out children as young as seven had taken their own lives “broke his heart” as a parent, and that especially in lockdown, it has never been more important to take care of your mind.
He told The Mirror: “The first thing I thought when I watched Boris [Johnson] on Saturday was that so many people are going to struggle with this now.”
“I was completely unaware that kids as young as 7 and 8 have taken their own lives.
“I was at a loss for words, and as a father it breaks my heart, the thought of Parker having that thought in his head, or him being upset or anxious, or depressed, it breaks my heart, just the thought of it.
“And I have nephews who are six, so not far behind that, so when I learnt about that it was just the parental instinct inside me said, I’ want to be a part of this and try to help’.”
Speaking about ways we can look after our mental health in lockdown, Mario said: “Exercise is a really good thing for me, I don’t have a six pack any more, those days are long gone, dad bods rock!
“But I still make sure I train every day, whether it’s going for a run, a walk, a bit of fresh air to start my day and have bit of a routine and structure, I find that really helps me.
“Especially when we are in Tier 4, I find to have structure to my day keeps me in the right place mentally.
“If you eat s**t, you’re going to feel s**t, and it’s the same with what you take into your brain, try to stay away from reading things that have a detrimental effect on your mental health.
“There are other things to watch that are going to make you feel warm, and people need to realise there will be an end to this. I know it feels like it’s continually dragging.”
Mario says having his little boy in lockdown without being able to see his extended family was the “hardest part” of the whole thing.
“I like to be so close to my parents and my sister’s kids,” he said.
“My mum is in our bubble, I moved here in July, bless her, I couldn’t let her be on her own.
He joked: “I regret that now, she is driving me mad!
“[Parker] loves his cousins, aunties and uncles to pieces, not being able to see the kids together, me and my sister are so close and you dream of those moments.
“I have a nephew called Dylan, and I’ve missed all of those baby cuddles, that’s been really hard.”
However, Mario and his dad, Mario Snr., have managed to grow even closer in lockdown after main learnt how to play golf, as earlier in the year they were allowed to meet up so long as they played golf.
“It was therapeutic for me, my dad is a relaxed and positive man, he wouldn’t like to see me down, he’s got a good aura,” says Mario.
“But seeing Parker miss out on a lot of stuff has been hard, you don’t want your kid to miss out on life.”
Mario has been open about the fact he tried to take his own life in 2012, and he intends to teach Parker it is okay for men to be sad, or anxious, and it is okay to talk about it.
“Not every day is going to be a good day, things in life will be hard, but in getting through them it gives you strength,” he said.
“It’s only since Parker I respect my journey from what I went through to what I am, because it inspires me, it makes me proud of myself. I was at the cusp of taking my life, to now having a beautiful family, that is an achievement in itself.
“I will tell him it’s okay for boys to cry, I say to Parker, ‘Daddy still cries now’.
“I will talk about my experiences with honesty, so he will feel comfortable, and I can speak to him from a place of knowledge, not just as a parent but someone who has been there and gets it.”
Mari continued: “That is our job as parents now, we will struggle to change our parents’ generation, our generation there is some stigma but not as much, which is fantastic, but there is some of the ‘man up and get over it’ attitude.
“But if we can educate our children as they grow up like we do anything else, we teach them to count, we teach them to do their ABCs, we can eventually make mental health as common to talk about as a cold. That’s what our goal should be.”
*PAPYRUS is the UK Charity for the prevention of young suicide (under 35). For PAPYRUS HOPELINEUK call 0800 068 4141
Samaritans (116 123) operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at [email protected]
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