Just over a year since the suicide of a close friend, and at a time when mental health is on everyone’s lips, Callum MacPherson wants young men to speak up.
This podcaster doesn’t want to go to another friend’s funeral
Callum MacPherson was working a shift at Channel 7 last year when he got a call that no one is ever ready to take – his friend had died.
“I went into shock and my initial reaction was to keep working but I broke down and had to go home,” Callum tells CityMag.
“My cameraman had to drive me home in tears.”
Callum says that was the first time he’d lost someone suddenly, when “it wasn’t their time.”
Callum is no stranger to violence – as a former news reporter for a television station, the 26-year-old covered car crashes and stabbings – but the suicide of his 29-year-old friend hit home. It was different to reading about it in the newspaper, he says.
“Suicide is the biggest killer of people between 15 and 45, and is responsible for a third of the deaths of young people between 15 and 34, and three times the amount of men die by suicide as women, so, it’s such a male-dominated problem,” Callum says.
“I wanted to find something that I could do to make some impact in that area, as a healing mechanism for me, but also [as] something that could help others to deal with or avoid that similar sort of pain.”
Seven months since the incident, Callum launched Young Blood – Men’s Health Matters, a podcast focussing on stories of young men overcoming obstacles in life.
Callum wanted to use his skills as a journalist and found local stories – and attempted to wrangle large celebrities like Guy Sebastian – to “smash the stigma” of young men discussing mental health issues.
Almost half a year on, there are 26 one-hour episodes on the site, with programs featuring guests with a breadth of experiences – from coming out to surviving cancer.
“They’re all mostly ‘Tell me your story’ and ‘What do you think?’ and ‘How that shaped you?’ and then we ended up talking about mental health,” Callum says.
“It’s not just like ‘Alright, now tell me about anxiety’,” he says.
The podcast is self-funded but Callum is always looking for other support. The dream is to continue normalising mental health conversations amongst young men, particularly those aged 15—35, and has the aim to become a mentor through his work.
“[The podcast] is about trying to change that attitude, that men don’t share their feelings, and we just need to bottle things up and keep it inside because that’s what a man should do,” he says.
“The way to change that is young men leading other young men, and leading by example because that’s the only way it’s going to resonate.
“We can’t have people who aren’t in our age group or aren’t like us telling us to do something, because we’re not going to listen.”
Callum brings in guests relevant to current cultural conversations around mental health, like positive psychologist ‘Dr Happy’ – real name Tim Sharp – who recently spoke to Callum about COVID-19 and its effect on mental health.
As Dr Happy says we shouldn’t rule out happiness…even with the odds against us.Dr Happy (aka Dr Tim Sharp) is one of the world's leading positive psychology experts. He’s got a PHD and is the Chief Happiness Officer of The Happiness Institute, which he founded himself.Basically it doesn’t get more happy than this guy…But as he tells it, even he gets depressed sometimes and that's just being human!Dr Happy might just have the prescription for your woes as you navigate this weird and troubling time – or if not a remedy, at least some reassurance and practical advice to lighten the load.
Posted by Young Blood – Men's Health Matters on Monday, April 27, 2020
With experts stating South Australia’s mental wellness levels are “not looking good,” there’s no better time to pay attention to your mood.
Mental health researcher Joep van Agteren recently outlined to CityMag the warning signs, and Callum is helping by publishing podcasts with uplifting narratives.
This has meant, as a storyteller, Callum has dug around to find stories with happy endings, but this was done on purpose so every episode wasn’t “totally depressing,” he says.
“The [story] that was the most jaw-dropping, that really blew my mind, was talking to this young African guy. His name’s Chance Ndume,” Callum says.
“He fled the Congo because of war and hadn’t seen his family since the age of nine, and spent five years trying to get out of Africa as a young child.
“He eventually did get over here, and through an unfortunate series of events [ended up] sleeping rough in Adelaide.
“He didn’t have any family and he was a world away from everything he knew, and then he felt like he had no support of any kind.
“With me and with this show, we’re trying to inspire people and make people feel like they can improve, and no matter how bad things get, they’ll get better.
“In this case with Chance, through social services, which he eventually got, he got back on his feet and made a friend and he was working this other job.
“He’s basically putting himself through uni, and he’s doing that as a side project and he’s only like 21, but he’s hugely positive.
“There’s this guy who would never have told you a story, and now you know it. It totally blows your mind.”
It’s clear Callum genuinely cares. He recounts other stories of local heroes often overlooked, such as CFS volunteers and former defence personnel.
But still, what inspires Callum to continue making the Young Blood podcast is his hope to never lose another young friend.
“What scares me is going to another funeral like that, and having people that I love have to go through the same thing and think, ‘I wish I had said something or been there for them,'” says Callum.
“I never want to feel like that again.
“My goal is to just have these conversations with as many young men as possible and reach as many as possible, and help as many people as possible and that’s really what I aim to do.”