Extraordinary People

Hero tackles male mental health by showing it’s okay to have emotions

Fredi Nwaka is helping others after his little brother took his own life

See a counsellor, call a helpline, tell a friend… while traditional advice may help some people, opening up is not always so easy for others. In particular, boys and men.

Even in 2021, where male mental health is under the spotlight, it can be hard to shake off the shackles that society places on men to be tough and not show their vulnerabilities.

Yet thanks to one lone ranger, he is reaching out to those who struggle to come forward by shining a light on male mental health and suicide prevention.

Hosting Instagram Lives, Fredi Nwaka has created an informal way to mentor boys and men and connect with them minus the pressures or clinical setting of typical therapy.

[Credit: Fredi Nwaka]

Speaking exclusively to Uspire, Fredi spoke about his project, and how it came about.

Fredi said: “GRIEF [Getting Rid Of Irritable Emotional Feelings] is a platform for people to be free, where they can talk, express themselves and be inspired.

“I’ve spent my whole life being strong, involved in gangs, fighting, bodyguarding etc. and it wasn’t until I lost my little brother to suicide that it changed my outlook. He wasn’t my biological brother, but as good as. Then I lost my mother.

“Someone told me to stay strong and it was at that moment I knew I had to be weak; allow myself to cry, be sad, feel hurt and feel pain. That was when I decided to think of ways to get rid of grief.”

While everyone is welcome to join the sessions, Fredi encourages men in particular so that he can help them debunk the myth that emotions emasculate.

[Credit: Fredi Nwaka]

He explained: “As men, we tend to bottle things up and refuse to talk and share. We suffer in silence and for many, it is a lonely place which can lead to stress, depression and even suicide.

“My aim is to let men know it’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to be vulnerable, and it’s okay to talk.”

Fredi added: “I’ve been through a lot in my life and if other men see me opening up and talking, hopefully it will encourage them to also.”

Despite having only launched a few months ago, the response has been incredible – from both men and women.

So much so, that Fredi has been fortunate enough to speak with some great guests, including Peter Andre, Ashley Walters, and protester hero Patrick Hutchinson.

[Credit: Fredi Nwaka]

While he hopes to continue growing the platform, Fredi believes that even if he can reach one person then he has done what he has set out to do.

He said: “Every show gets at least 2.5k views, and if it helps one person then my job is done.

“I’ve had people message me thanking me for inspiring them, and at least three people who have said I’ve stopped them from taking their own life, so I must be making a difference.”

Fredi added: “My mission is to make them feel like they are enough. Some people just need to know someone cares.”

[Credit: Fredi Nwaka]

Not only does Fredi host his GRIEF sessions weekly, he is also campaigning to bring back The Blackademy Awards in October post-lockdown – an award show celebrating ordinary people who do extraordinary things, hosted at the prestigious Dorchester Hotel in London.

Once quarantine eases, he also hopes to take GRIEF on tour to reach even more lives.

His tour could not come at a better time, with the effects of the pandemic continuing to have a significant impact on the nation’s mental health as the population battles with isolation, losing loved ones, unemployment, fewer job prospects, and an uncertain future.

The award-winning film producer and writer, who tackles issues through his art, also delves in mental health and effects of bullying in his new title She’s The One – out from January 18.

If you have sons, boyfriends, husbands, brothers, get them clicking here: GRIEF.

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