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This autumn we’re wrapping ourselves up in good style and good feelings with Comfort Layers that count. We know that good feelings aren’t always easy to find, especially right now and we need to talk about it. One in four of us will experience a mental health problem each year and a recent Mind survey revealed the overwhelming effect of coronavirus on our mental health. October shines a light on wellbeing as World Mental Health Day comes to the forefront. We’re working with Mind to reveal the person beneath the comfort layers and break down the stigmas of mental health. 

To help us do that, we spoke to Sam Way, a singer-songwriter, about the strength in men showing their vulnerability and the importance of asking for help…

Tell us a little about yourself

I'm a Devon-born country lad from a small town who moved to the big smoke at a pretty young age. I had a normal, unremarkable upbringing. From a young age I've always loved stories, drama and worlds I could escape to. I've been grafting at my craft as a singer-songwriter for a while now and I love the opportunities music brings. I'm an expressive soul, kind of sincere and sensitive. I love my mates, my family, my fiance and I really want a dog! I'm also a yogi - I try and do that every morning - and in the last few years I’ve really gotten into wild swimming and cold immersion. Ok, I’m going to go and have a cold shower now, bye!

 

What three words best describe you?

Curious. Ambitious. Playful.


Can you tell us about your own mental wellness and the conditions you have?

I started working in the industry at a young age and at 17 years old, I was flying all over the world after being scouted by Models1. It came with its blessings and hardships. I grew up quickly and struggled with the pressure of being in an industry that seemed to demand perfection. I ended up finding a safe haven in music, a place to express what I'd been keeping in. Still, despite music grounding me massively, I was developing some pretty unhealthy habits; body dysmorphia, weird diets, starvation/overeating or overtraining and then that progressed to bulimia. Despite having the 'dream job' I couldn't have been unhappier. I pushed myself to the edge, kept it all in and tried to deal with it myself. I'm like that, I just like to sort it out myself, but I knew things had to change. Asking for help and getting it was one of the best things I could have ever done for myself. I went to see a therapist and they really helped unpack my own thoughts and feelings. I was learning how to take care of myself. Weird to say that, but it was true. I was so depressed and unconfident deep down and felt like I was walking around with a mask on all day. With great effort and persistence, things got better and the whole process made me aware that your mental wellbeing is a daily process. It's like a garden, you have to keep on tending to it otherwise it will just get overgrown and the deeper back you go the thicker the roots and weeds are. 

Do you think it’s harder for men to open up about their feelings, if so, why?

Yeah it is and I think it's starting to become common knowledge that men have a harder time opening up. But I think there's also been a huge shift. I mean, look at what we're doing now! We're opening the conversation. What support do men need? How are they being affected? It's ok to not be ok! But we're never going to get past that if we don't admit it and do some work. For me, as I grew up around my mum, who was very expressive, I think I picked up on more of that. But it's definitely a generational thing too. We're breaking down and re-evaluating the traditional societal expectations of what a man is and now it's clear, let's shout it from the rooftops! It's ok, it's actually incredible, to be able to be vulnerable. 

 

What are your comfort layers? 

 Music, yoga, discipline, my journal and meditation.

Why have you decided to share your story?

Stories can be immensely healing. They're how we learn about ourselves, about others and the world around us. I want to share my story for any man that needs to hear it and for it to help them feel empowered. To know that they don't have to do it alone. To know that there is help out there and to know it's ok to ask for it. To know that it's ok to fall apart and be vulnerable. It makes you more of a man, not less of one. It can get better. If I can make a small difference, that will be a very good thing. 

 

What do you want people to take from your experience?

I used to wake up dreading every day, hating a life that was very blessed. I was sad, miserable and unable to look after myself too. I made bad and unconscious choices and basically got myself into a right mess. The best thing I did, for my life and for the people who I love, was go and speak to someone and ask for help. I just wish I did it sooner.

This season, when you invest in River Island outerwear, you’ll be investing in mental health too with £2 from the sales of adults winter coats* 

going directly to mental health charity Mind.

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