“If I can speak about mental health – heavyweight champion, six foot nine, 18 stone tough guy – anybody can.” – Tyson Fury

Photo Credit: https://www.instagram.com/gypsyking101/

Self-titled as the Gypsy King, the Mancunian heavyweight champion has recently been awarded the title ‘Sports Personality of the Year.’  I’m sure that many of you, like myself, watched in awe on December 1st, at his contentious fight with Deontay Wilde. However, how many are aware that he has pledged to give his entire eight million pound earnings to the homeless? As well as declaring “for all the people out there with mental health problems, I did it for you guys.” Yes, Tyson Fury is part of the growing wave of men in the public eye, which range from Princes, footballers, and singers, speaking out about their struggles.

After reaching a career peak in November 2015 when he earnt the IBF, WBA and WBO titles from Wladimir Klitschko – Fury’s life began to take a negative turn. He explained ‘when you’ve won all the world title belts there’s nothing else after that.’ Within a year, he was addicted to cocaine, had become an alcoholic, had risen to twenty-seven stone, loathed the sport he had once triumphed at, and was chronically depressed. His thoughts became wrapped with suicide; leading him to consider driving his Ferrari off a bridge at 190mph. He told the BBC, ‘I woke up every day wishing I would not wake up any more.’ 

In addition, in June that year, the British Boxing Board of Control suspended him amid ‘anti-doping and medical issues.’ Subsequently, in the October, he relinquished his WBA and WBO titles in order to focus on his recovery and treatment. In that same month, he opened up about his experience to Rolling Stone. As well as describing his manic depression and toxic coping mechanisms, he explained his initial confusion about pinpointing his problems, ‘I was rich, successful, young, healthy, had a family, fame – everything a man could dream of – but I was still depressed.’

Photo Credit: https://www.instagram.com/gypsyking101/

Fast forward two years and he has transformed his situation. He has sought psychiatric treatment, lost weight, and no longer drinks. He has also returned to his boxing career, proving, he told BBC Sport, that anyone ‘can come back from the brink.’ He is now also a mental health champion, and wants to inspire others. 

“There is a lot of people out there suffering with mental health problems who think all their days will be grey, but life can improve again, and you will start to enjoy the little things again.”

Some core tips he has suggested to those struggling, include: 

  • “A structured routine in life is key – having short-term and long-term goals.” 
  • “I advise living a healthy clean life. What good is drinking? It poisons the body. There is nothing better than getting in the gym and getting the endorphins going.”

Earlier this year I wrote an article about the differences between how male and female mental health is treated – http://cubmagazine.co.uk/2018/01/i-am-a-woman-i-must-be-too-sensitive-i-am-a-man-i-must-be-gay-how-gender-has-marginalised-our-emotions-throughout-the-years/  . Sadly, many men are still reluctant to say that they are struggling due to unfair and cruel gender stereotypes – the stats prove this, and the fatal consequences they can lead to. The Mental Health Network, a department of the NHS, reported that women are more likely to admit they’ve been diagnosed with a mental health problem – 33% compared to only 19% of men. Moreover, despite women being more likely to be diagnosed with a “common” mental health problem, men accounted for 78% of suicides in 2013 – making it the biggest killer of men under 45.

Hence, reading and seeing a literal mountain of a man, who I guess does the ‘manliest’ sport, saying “yeah I get sad” is so important. Fury appreciates the importance of speaking up, ‘We need to spread the word on mental health more in sport because a lot of people are still living in darkness and are too afraid to come out and speak about it publicly.’ Although the belief of ‘manning up’ is slowly receding from our society, could be argued predominantly in our generation, there is still a lot of work to be done. I think a good place to start would be to have Fury sit down with Piers Morgan, so that the “journalist” can explain to him why he should have manned up – now that I would pay to see.

For his speech at the awards ceremony – https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/sports-personality/46587603

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