During Men’s Health Week, Newcastle United Foundation is sharing Rumni’s journey to better mental health through support from the charity’s Be A Game Changer project.
I’ve always found it difficult to switch off and just be in the moment. But since my young sons started playing football, I’ve found myself getting lost in the game.
I have to admit that I’m one of those parents shouting loudly from the side-lines, but that’s because everyone else pauses, and I’m able to concentrate solely on the match. Football is something that we can all enjoy together as a family which is something I know lots of families in the North East will relate to.
At one point, not long after my father passed away, I was struggling really badly with my mental health. I felt confused, I had negative thoughts, I would feel anxious and I’d be unable to sleep at night. Even though I looked fine on the outside, inside it was a whole different story.
Growing up between cultures
I was born and bred in Newcastle. My life involved being part of two very different cultures, which could often feel confusing and was sometimes difficult to juggle. Outside of the home, me and my siblings were very much living our lives as part of Western culture, but inside the family home, we had Indian traditions and expectations which could be quite different.
Our home was also slightly unusual in that we had a large family of twelve all living together. There was our family and my dad’s brother’s family, as well as my Granddad, all living under one roof. We also had a family clothing business, which we still run to this day.
Over the years I remember my family working hard to keep the business going, and everything we made had to go back into the company. If there were problems, you simply had to roll your sleeves up and get on with the job. But my family had that mindset that we were greater together, strength in numbers. It was always ‘we’ not ‘me’. Family has always been so important.
Feeling completely lost
So when my father became unwell with cancer, it really hit me. The doctors in the UK weren’t giving us much hope, so we flew him to India for treatment. I really struggled seeing my dad suffer and I decided to go on a Hindu pilgrimage throughout India while he was getting treated in hospital.
Sadly, after six weeks in India, he passed away. I was devastated. He wasn’t just my dad, he was my best friend, and I felt completely lost.
Our family suffered another major blow when my Granddad died shortly after my dad passed away – it was the grief of losing his son.
My mental health really took a kick and – while I’d always struggled with perfectionism since school – it all became too much. I was also suffering with Alopecia from the stress of it all.
A weight lifted
It took me a while to work out that my problems were to do with my mental health, but when I finally saw a GP and said it out loud, it was like a weight had been lifted.
I was referred for counselling and found that really helpful. The therapist helped me see that I wasn’t alone, that what I was feeling was perfectly normal and they helped me to rationalise what was happening in my mind.
I’ve since come a long way as I practice mindfulness most days and created an inner strength to help try manage my thoughts. Now I wanted to give something back by sharing my experience. For example, I use my social media platform to raise awareness and overcome the barriers that keep us from addressing mental health.
Championing mental health for all
I’m also involved in Newcastle United Foundation’s Be A Game Changer mental health awareness campaign. Our family’s business, D-ROCK Apparel, became Be A Game Changer Champions this year in our commitment to make sure everyone feels listened to, supported and understood.
Being involved in the campaign means we can share mental health support and positive wellbeing messages with staff and customers alike to help start important conversations about mental wellness.
I think there’s long been a problem with men not talking about their mental health. And I think that’s something to do with how easy it is to hide what you’re feeling. I know I did – what I looked like on the outside wasn’t necessarily how I felt on the inside. Working in the fashion business makes me think about this a lot too – the clothing you wear influences how you feel.
But because knowing I wasn’t alone helped me so much, I think it’s really important to talk. And to find things in life that can help us to switch off from the negative stuff and focus on the good stuff – like watching my boys playing football. Mindfulness, exercise and my passion and drive for D-ROCK give me the mental boost I need.
It's important to support others, as well as giving yourself some care, and our business is also working with the Foundation’s NU Futures team to offer work placements for young people in the North East who aren’t in education, training or employment.
We couldn’t be prouder to work with the Foundation to improve mental wellness for more people is truly amazing.
Being able to switch off, and being able to get it off your chest, was so important to me. I hope I can encourage others to feel less alone by giving something back and sharing my story.
Be A Game Changer is Newcastle United Foundation’s mental health awareness campaign providing advice on mental wellness and signposts to support with the ultimate aim to reduce suicide rates in the North East and eradicate stigmas surrounding mental health matters.
Our award-winning mental health awareness campaign Be A Game Changer provides peer support opportunities for our entire community.