Big Issue vendor tells his powerful story in book for men’s mental health

Big Boys Don't Cry? brings together the stories of men from all walks of life to help readers learn to prioritise their own mental wellbeing

A Big Issue vendor is helping boost men’s mental health after telling his story in a new book described as “brave and important” by Stephen Fry.

Big Boys Don’t Cry? is a self-help book urging men to open up and using 60 real-life experiences of men and their partners who have been through tough times of mental illness.

It was curated by two former school friends, Patrick Addis and Fabian Devlin, a school teacher and communications consultant respectively, and features contributions from men of all sorts of backgrounds: lawyers, postmen, soldiers, construction workers and businessmen. The book covers a huge amount of ground from bereavement, bullying, marriage breakdown and experience of war, as well as chemical imbalance – making clear that adversity isn’t a prerequisite for poor mental health.

It even includes the story of 33-year-old vendor Ian, who explains what impact being a sexual abuse survivor had on his life.

“I’m literally about to explode. I feel like I want to lash out at the world,” the Big Issue seller wrote. “I’m raging with anger and pent up aggression, all because of what happened when I was 15.”

Ian was placed in care and later spent time in prison, finding himself estranged from his family.

“I ended up sleeping rough out on the streets and eventually chose to escape from the world by making my home in a tent in the peace and quiet of a village common. Here was my safe haven and I kept my sanity by not being bothered by other people and sticking with those I could trust,” he said.

“One man, an old friend, was a true and constant support and his words of advice stick with me to this day: “Believe in what you want to do and you will succeed!”.

“These words are my guiding light and I am trying every day to be a better man, selling The Big Issue in rain, wind or snow to help make ends meet and showing the world my talents through street art and illustrations,” Ian added, writing before the Covid-19 crisis meant vendors were temporarily stopped from selling on the streets.

Big Boys Don’t Cry? was released this week to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week. In 2018, three-quarters of recorded suicides were among men.

Former England cricketer Marcus Trescothick tells his own story in the book. He said: “Too many men are suffering in silence and tragically taking their own lives. Big Boys Don’t Cry? shines a light on a number of men who have struggled with their mental health but who are now sharing their story to show other men that they are not alone; that help is out there; and that it’s time to open up, not man up.”

The book includes top-ten tips for mental wellbeing, which recommends visiting a GP, taking medication and getting therapy where suitable, fitting in some exercise and practising self-acceptance.

Rhodri Jones, a 38-year-old former Manchester United player, wrote in his entry: “I’ve always been a perfectionist and a bit hard on myself – never satisfied with my achievements. These traits worked in my favour in driving me to get the high grades at school, and also to fulfil my dream of becoming a professional footballer with Manchester United.

“The problem was I had wrapped up most of my identity in football, so when injuries came along and ended my career prematurely in my early 20s it left a deeper void in my life than it should have done. Those same traits that once helped me succeed now turned against me. I felt worthless, like I’d let everyone down.”

Ten per cent of proceeds from the book will go to mental health charities CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) and Mind. The e-book is available now for £10.

Samaritans’ free helpline number is 116 123. Calls to this helpline number do not appear on phone bills. Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year, providing a safe place for anyone who is struggling to cope.