Former Oakham School pupil Tom Home launches 'blOKes' for men's mental health
Battles with depression have inspired a former Oakham School student to launch a company championing men’s mental health.
Tom Home was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder at the start while a second year student at Northumbria University in 2016, conditions which he kept a closely guarded secret.
“At the time I was a very sociable guy, playing rugby, seeing friends and spending time with family, however, I became increasingly and excessively paranoid, and it eventually got so bad I didn’t want to leave the house,” he said.
“When I got to my crisis point and felt like I couldn’t cope anymore, I felt I had absolutely no choice, but to reach out to my parents and ask for help.
“They didn’t realise I was struggling at all because I didn’t communicate with them.”
The personal stigma which prevented him opening up sooner motivated him to launch community interest company blOKes in June this year.
Its aim is to generate money for their partner clubs and organisations which in turn provide mental health education, campaigns and initiatives.
Men aged 18-plus can create a free account and join an online forum where they can share stories, experiences and advice.
Tom, from Saltby, fits the work in around a full-time job for a PR and communications agency in Nottingham.
“blOKes is very much a labour of love and something I find time to do in the mornings, evenings, at weekends, and pretty much at any other opportunity I get outside of my daily job,” he said.
“I have wanted to do something around men’s mental health ever since my experience started, but lockdown gave me the opportunity to sit down and think about what I actually wanted to do, which is when blOKes was born.
“While conversations around men’s mental health are becoming more common and accepted, there’s still an underlying taboo around men speaking about how they’re feeling.
“I particularly feel that men of older generations find it hard to speak about their mental health as it’s stereotypically not something that they were encouraged to do as it was seen as weak or unmanly.”
After being put on a course of antidepressants by a GP, Tom tried counselling and hypnotherapy, but it was support groups which allowed him to turn the corner.
“What did help me more than anything else was speaking to like-minded guys who could completely empathise with what I was going through,” he added.
“Ever since then, I have been really passionate about using my own experiences to encourage other men to not be ashamed or embarrassed about speaking about their thoughts, feelings and emotions.”
Tom has recruited a raft of professional sportsmen as blOKes ambassadors, including Nottinghamshire CCC cricketer Lyndon James, Leicester Tigers prop Joe Heyes, Team GB track athlete Jack Green, and former European champion boxer Joe Hughes.
Tom added: “I like to think that men who may not feel they can speak to friends, family and colleagues about their thoughts and feelings can use blOKes to take the first steps - which are often the hardest.”
For more details, visit www.blokes.life, email firstname.lastname@example.org or find it on Twitter or Instagram.