Love Island star Kem Cetinay has said he first faced up to the fact he was struggling with his mental health when he was 14 and was taken out of school.
The reality star, 24, who is an ambassador for suicide prevention charity CALM (The Campaign Against Living Miserably), has spoken openly about his experiences of anxiety and depression, as well as PTSD and suicidal thoughts, since he left the show.
He said: “It was hard for me to open up about my PTSD and my mental health at the beginning when I first left Love Island.
“I didn’t know at the time if opening up could end up affecting me more as I was so worried about what people would think.
“But anyone who knows me, knows that my mental health journey has been a huge part of my life, so I thought I wouldn’t be who I am today if I hadn’t gone through all of this and I didn’t want to hide from it.
“The first time I spoke about my past publicly I was so nervous but it gave me the best feeling in the world getting it off my chest and talking about it.
“The amount of messages I received from people who could relate to the things that I’d been through really helped me with my own battles and made me realise that it’s so important that I continue to speak openly about it because it not only helps me but it also might help someone else to decide to open up and talk too.”
Cetinay has previously said his issues were possibly triggered by the trauma of his mother nearly dying from septicaemia when he was young – and shortly afterwards his own tonsils operation going wrong, leading to him suffering kidney failure.
He added: “I can’t fault my parents, they did absolutely everything they could to help me, they were so patient for years but the first time I really faced up to the fact I was struggling with my mental health was when I was about 14 and I was taken in and out of school until eventually I was permanently taken out.
“It was a bit of a wake-up call and they took me to see so many different people like my GP and different therapists, but I think because I was in those teenage years, I still had to grow up a little bit to start to focus in and fight the journey myself, and make the decision to be open to accept help and to talk about things.
“It definitely wasn’t something that was spoken about as much then as it is now, but I feel like I had parents who were dedicated to help, but at the end of the day the only person who’s going to take the steps forward to embrace the help is you.”
Cetinay, who won the ITV2 dating show with ex-girlfriend Amber Davies in 2017, said steps can still be taken in battling stereotyping and the impact that has on young men.
He said: “With the influx of social media on our lives, people are able to share their stories in their own ways and whilst it can show an edited version of peoples lives’, it is also giving people a platform for people talking about their experiences more than ever before and a lot of people are becoming more and more brave by using their platforms to show their daily struggles.
“The media have a powerful part to play and we should encourage mental health to be a topic that is spoken about by everyone in all walks of life as everyone has a different experience to share and as long as it becomes a normalised subject to talk about in the media, then I think the way people will feel about themselves will change over time.
“Men can be so hard on themselves but to see people in the media being open about their difficulties will only encourage more men to find someone to talk to.”
Campaign Against Living Miserably’s (CALM) free, anonymous and confidential helpline and webchat are open from 5pm until midnight, 365 days a year. Call CALM on 0800 58 58 58 or chat to their trained helpline staff online.