How have you survived January this year?
I actually really like January and think it’s odd that people find it depressing. I love that renewed energy so I tend to bounce into January excited about the year ahead. December’s the month I find hard to survive!
What made you start #IAMWHOLE?
In 2016 I was approached by the NHS to create a campaign to battle the stigma surrounding mental health in young people. I had no idea of the size of the epidemic occurring in the UK, but having seen so many people close to me suffer with issues in the past, I wanted to help destigmatise it, so future generations would see mental health as a very normal thing we all have.
How did you start #IAMWHOLE?
Previous mental health campaigns from the NHS amounted to little more than a few leaflets in a doctor’s surgery. I knew immediately that this was not the way to communicate with a young audience, and that we had to do something different. Around the same time that I had been approached by the NHS, I directed a music video for Rizzle Kicks, and when we wrapped, Jordan Stephens sent me some solo material he’d been working on. There was this one track called ‘WHOLE’ that really struck a chord with me. Jordan later described it as ‘narrating his own spiral into depression’. I asked the NHS if they’d let us make a music video for the campaign, something they’d never done before. Amazingly, the said yes! And so, #IAMWHOLE was born.
The music video concept was based on an idea I’d had about a circle on the palm of the hand, the ‘WHOLE’ circle. We shot the music video and launched it on World Mental Health Day 2016. To our complete amazement, the campaign immediately went viral. By the end of the day, we’d been endorsed by a number of global superstars including Ed Sheeran, Liam Gallagher and James Corden, reached an audience of over 120 million, and were even mentioned in Parliament! Find WHOLE here.
What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
Definitely ‘Music 4 Mental Health’, a fundraising concert we put on at The Roundhouse in London, starring Ed Sheeran, Anne Marie, James Arthur, Professor Green, Ella Eyre, Olly Murs, Nothing But Thieves, Louis Berry and the brilliant Hussain Manawer. I have honestly never felt so much love, honesty and vulnerability in a room. These incredible artists were sharing their stories and some were opening up about their mental health for the very first time – you could have heard a pin drop! It was a very special evening.
How do you stay motivated both in work and your personal life?
I’m lucky that I have a natural fire in my belly that keeps me motivated on a daily basis. The thing I am trying to do more of is balance, as I probably work too much and don’t take enough time for self-care. I’ve set myself the challenge of doing a whole year sober which I think will definitely help – watch this space!
What are you currently working on?
My day job is running a TV and digital production company, mainly making comedy. I’m currently finishing the second series of ‘The Stand Up Sketch Show’ for ITV2, as well as being mid-production on ‘Comedy Against Living Miserably’, a brand new mental health TV series raising money for the charity CALM and starring some of Britain’s biggest comedians. It airs Dave from March onwards.
What advice would you give to somebody who wants to help people with their mental health?
Life is busy, so make sure you check in with your friends and family from time to time to see how they are. You don’t know when someone might need you. And my biggest bit of advice for anyone struggling is – talk to someone. Whether it’s a friend, family member or a professional, telling someone how you feel is the first step to sorting things. I can’t tell you how much of a difference that has made for me in the past.
What is your biggest accomplishment in life?
Apart from my amazing wife and kids, I’ve been very lucky to have had a great career to date, but the thing I am most proud of is #IAMWHOLE. It has touched so many people, creating a community that wants to fight stigma and help change the future of mental health. #IAMWHOLE has also led me through my own mental health journey, helping me understand myself more, as well as making me a better human.
What will you be reading, watching or listening to in 2020?
‘Comedy Against Living Miserably’ on Dave, you should too!
What advice would you give your younger self?
Self-care isn’t boring… you don’t need to drink all of the drinks. And when smartphones come out, don’t get addicted to them.
If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life what would it be?
I’m a pescatarian that is trying to be more vegan – for all the reasons. I love food, so maybe some sort of all-encompassing buffet if that’s okay? If not, a king prawn curry and garlic naan, or most Italian food, Southeast Asian food and Spanish Tapas – ALL on one plate. Thanks!
What do you always carry with you?
I hate to say this, but my phone charger. My job is very varied which means I spend a lot of time on my phone as I am constantly on the go… so have to make sure I have power on tap. I am really bad at switching off from my phone – that’s something I have to work on.
What are you most looking forward to in 2020?
There are a lot of things happening this year, including a VERY exciting secret #IAMWHOLE project we are launching with Zoe and the brand Lush. We are also planning the next ‘Music 4 Mental Health’ and are in talks with some major artists. Find Matt on Instagram and Twitter.