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Mental Health Awareness Week: What We Can All Learn from Professor Green

In 2019, we had the good fortune to go and see rapper Professor Green give a live HARDtalk discussion at the BBC Broadcasting Centre. There, he talked about his music, mental health and how the two often intertwine in his work.

TW: Suicide, Violence

“I’ve always put so much of myself in my music”

Presenter Stephen Sackur kicked off the conversation with Professor Green, real name Stephen Manderson, by talking about how his rocky family life and mental health issues have affected his music. Professor Green explained that to him, writing music is akin to journaling, a common tool used in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).  “I started writing about what I saw, what I’ve felt, what I’ve been through.” His song, Photograph, for example, deals with the topic of loss and longing. This stems from the absence of his father, with whom he had limited contact and who committed suicide when Stephen was 24. For him, writing music is an outlet that helps him to express his feelings in a way that he may not have otherwise been able to.

Stephen himself has also suffered with mental health issues for a long time, and has decided to be very open about it to encourage other men to do the same. Many men may feel uncomfortable about talking about their mental health because there is this ‘pull it together’ sort of attitude that makes them believe that being strong means being silent about these terrible issues that are affecting them. Professor Green disagrees with this portrayal of strength. “There is strength in admitting being vulnerable because as soon as you’re honest about how you feel, you can deal with it.”

“We need to readdress the connotations of the word ‘selfish’”

Another problem that Stephen felt is huge for those suffering from ill mental health with successful careers is that there’s a certain sense of guilt about feeling anxious or depressed when there are people who are much worse off. Coming from a difficult background, he understands many of the challenges faced by young people today, and he thought that by becoming successful, this would ‘absolve’ him of his worries. The realisation that this wasn’t true was difficult, as he felt that he no longer had the right to feel this way because he was still better off.

He has a tattoo that says ‘Lucky’ on his neck, which is slightly ironic given that he was stabbed over it with a broken bottle a few years ago. Still, he does truly believe that he’s been very fortunate. However, when host Stephen Sackur asked him whether he could now put the word ‘happy’ alongside it, Professor Green hesitated. “Not every day,” he finally said.

This honest and open response is the sort of thing that could really help start a conversation about mental health. This is something which Professor Green well knows, as he has filmed a number of documentaries about both mental health and people in difficult situations in life.

You can find a clip of his programme, Suicide and Me, here.

Here you can also find a selection of clips of him discussing mental health with different well-known faces:

  • Here he talks with model Adwoa Aboah.
  • Here he discusses with Jeremy Vine what it is that makes us human.
  • Here he can be seen launching a mental health campaign with Prince William.

Perhaps the most powerful thing that Manderson talked about in this discussion is coming to the understanding that feeling bad because of mental health and giving yourself time to recover isn’t selfish. “We need to readdress the connotations of the world ‘selfish,’” he says. “You’re no good to anyone if you’re no good yourself.”


To see the full HARDtalk, follow this link here.

More Resources on Male Mental Health

For more resources to help teach about male mental health issues, take a look at our selection below: