Why a ‘nutty’ pop star is my idea of a real man

When I was a young boy, pop star Adam Ant was one of my heroes. My dad delights in recalling how I used to jump off our sofa, emulating the highwayman’s leap onto a horse in the video for Stand and Deliver, which I loved watching on Top of the Pops.

This week, I read that former Oasis singer Liam Gallagher had called my old hero ‘nutty’. Now, I don’t know either of the men in question, but I do know that Adam Ant, who has bipolar disorder, has spoken openly about mental illness. Therefore, it might not be unreasonable to suggest Mr Gallagher’s choice of insult is, at best, in bad taste.

Sue Baker, Director of Time to Change, has rightly spoken out about Mr Gallagher’s remarks, as reported in The Guardian. Anyone, particularly someone in the public eye, deserves the utmost respect for talking about their mental health problems and helping to raise awareness of something that still carries the burdens of stigma and misunderstanding.

Reading this reminded me of lads at my school who called me a ‘failure’ because I wasn’t particularly good at sports and didn’t have a girlfriend. I could give them the benefit of the doubt and remember them as youthful scamps who meant no harm and it was all a bit of a joke. Or I could think about how it felt to be a teenage boy with low self-esteem, being repeatedly told he was a failure by boys (usually three of them together) who were more confident (at least when they were in their trio) and seemingly more popular.

When I had counselling for my depression, that phrase ‘Brook’s a failure’ was one of the first things that came to mind when I was thinking what might have caused me to have such unreasonably high standards for myself. I felt I always had to excel at everything, and nothing less than perfect was good enough. Was this subconsciously driven by an urge to prove those boys wrong? Anti-bullying Week is exploring the consequences of name-calling in the longer term. I wonder how often bullying is linked to mental illness…

Anyway – and I’m far from a failure, by the way, but if you ever meet me please remind me of that fact – what Liam Gallagher said about Adam Ant was rather like those playground taunts. I’m sure Adam Ant can stand up for himself, but I’m equally sure that the tide needs to turn against those who mock someone who has the courage to talk openly about their illness, particularly in a world where many men still think that macho posturing is what makes a chap a ‘real man’.

One way this can happen is for male role models to speak out about their experiences of mental illness, so I was delighted to see that World Cup-winning rugby star Jonny Wilkinson has done just that in his autobiography. Other sporting heroes like boxer Frank Bruno have done the same.

Both are champions in sports for ‘real men’. They’re strong. They are winners. And, more importantly for me, they have highlighted the fact that depression and other mental illnesses are indeed illnesses and can affect anyone. Having a mental illness is not a character flaw; not a weakness; not a failing; not confirmation that someone ‘can’t take it’ or ‘isn’t man enough’; and not ‘nutty’.

A man who’s prepared to admit he is mentally ill and share his experiences openly – now that’s what I call a real man.

This blog also appears on the Time To Change campaign’s website. Read more about their important work here: http://time-to-change.org.uk/blog/why-%E2%80%98nutty%E2%80%99-pop-star-my-idea-real-man


6 Comments on “Why a ‘nutty’ pop star is my idea of a real man”

  1. Hey Paul Brookes! How nice to meet you. I know you won’t like me, coz you’re far happier skulking around in the shadows, but oh yes, I recognise you…. I’ve seen many versions of you in other people and all of them nasty, vicious types who remain the shadows and create a lot of mayhem and mischief and torture for their kind hearted, good natured twins… Well, I’m glad you’ve been exposed for what you are, lying, sniveling, insecure little creature, trying to pull down someone who’se doing his best to cope and survive in this hectic, stress-ridden world. I look forward to seeing you lose some of that weight and grow thin… Maybe one day you will disappear!

    Keep writing about Brookes (he doesn’t even deserve a title), Mr Brook and welcome to the party…. there’s many of us with evil alter egos who keep us awake at nights. Funny thing is, it seems to be the perogative of sensitive, creative, artistic types…. I absolutely love Adam Ant, a real unusual talent! You are a brilliant wordsmith, very funny and real. Great to read your blogs and I’m looking forward to reading more.

  2. MotherWifeMe says:

    Nice post, so eloquently written. And I was/am also a huge Adam Ant fan, both for his fabulous back-catalogue of music and for his speaking out about his illness.

  3. […] not to hold grudges. Forgive people and let go. Move on. I stayed angry for years at the kids who picked on me at school, but they didn’t know I was angry with them so what good was it doing […]

  4. Dippyman says:

    […] not to hold grudges. Forgive people and let go. Move on. I stayed angry for years at the kids who picked on me at school, but they didn’t know I was angry with them so what good was it doing […]

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