Sex and Suicide Podcast - "Uncensored": Londoners aim to help break the stigma surrounding mental health
Credit: SHAWN EVANS
Scott Milne (left), Shawn Evans (middle) and Paulie O'Byrne (right) host the "Soulfire Sundays" series featured on the Sex and Suicide Podcast-"Uncensored". The series focuses on discussions regarding mental health in a candid way.
Shawn Evans, Scott Milne and Paulie O’Byrne host a weekly series called “Soulfire Sundays” on the Sex and Suicide Podcast-“Uncensored”, which focuses on topics surrounding mental health in a candid and unorthodox manner.
The inspiration behind creating “Soulfire Sundays” was the desire to break the stigma that surrounds mental health.
“We sat down and began to talk about mental health openly, hoping it would allow other people to talk about their struggles,” Milne said.
On Dec. 4, the hosts chose to publish a video reaching out to Fanshawe and Western students who are in need of someone to talk during the stressful times that come with transitioning to a new chapter in life.
The video came as a response to two recent suicides at Western University, which occurred within just weeks of each other.
“Your grades are not anywhere near as important as your mental health,” O’Byrne said.
O’Byrne further explained that it is important for individuals to take care of themselves. The classes that students are struggling in will be offered again in the future and there is no shame in having to retake them.
Evans, Milne and O’Byrne have endured personal struggles with their mental health throughout their lives.
The three hosts are comfortable sharing their different experiences in hopes of showing others that they are not alone and mental health is a subject that is OK to talk about. “We know that this time of year is tough. Especially going into exams,” Evans said. “[…] sometimes students are afraid to ask for help in certain areas so we wanted to provide an additional resource of people they could reach out to. We are more than happy to just come and be a friend.”
Evans explained that he had struggled with anxiety and depression and lost his roommate to suicide just over two years ago.
Following the tragic death of his close friend, Evans chose to learn more about the topic of mental health and mental illness.
In addition, Evans reached out to others who had similar circumstances to learn how they dealt with their mental health in their everyday lives.
“Nobody wants to admit that they are not OK, but we really should because we all go through it at times,” Evans said.
Milne, a professional bodybuilder, explained that one area of focus featured in the “Soulfire Sundays” series is geared towards addressing the harmfulness of male stereotypes. The group specifically referred to the societal expectation that men must have a tough exterior and hide their emotions.
O’Byrne is the founder of I’m One-In-Five, a not-for-profit organization, which is dedicated to assisting individuals who are affected by addiction, mental illness, trauma and victimization to heal.
In 2006, O’Byrne was sexually assaulted by a hockey coach, which left him with depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Currently, O’Byrne travels across the country to speak to students about his path to recovery and the subject of mental illness.
“One in five Canadians are going to be affected by mental illness, addiction, trauma or victimization in their lives. I think if we know that we are not alone, we won’t have to suffer in silence for so long. We can heal together,” O’Byrne said.
Throughout the series, the hosts are not afraid to use profanity when discussing topics, in order to create a candid and honest atmosphere for listeners.
Evans and Milne explained that the “Soulfire Sundays” series has received a lot of positive feedback and listeners have often thanked the hosts for their contribution towards the discussion of mental health.
“I think since [the podcast] is so real and raw, it’s something refreshing. People are used to being treated like a patient or a client and [the atmosphere] is very professional,” Evans said.
Currently, the Sex and Suicide Podcast–“Uncensored” has over 27,000 followers on Facebook alone. Other series on the podcast include “Woman Crush Wednesday”, which focuses on female empowerment.
“We are not professionals, we are just guys who have lived through it and want to give back to other people who are struggling like we were,” Evans said.
Evans, Milne and O’Byrne agreed that the conversation surrounding mental health is slowly improving.
“I think we need to keep getting people talking and knowing that it is OK to talk about it. There is nothing worse than sitting in your room alone trapped in your thoughts,” Evans said.
Evans added that he thinks students need to be given tools at a younger age to help them prepare for life and take care of themselves.
Milne said that it is great more techniques are becoming more common to assist individuals who are struggling with their mental health such as meditation and breathing exercises.
O’Byrne explained that mental illness is marketed once a year with Bell’s Let’s Talk Day. Instead, O’Byrne says mental illness should be a daily conversation, since some individuals struggle with mental illness everyday.
In regards to the future of the podcast, the hosts want to make the platform more interactive by inviting individuals to come onto the local podcast to share their stories or advice regarding mental health.
In addition, the hosts aspire to partake in speaking events at high schools and post-secondary institutions to talk to youth about their personal stories and struggles with mental health.
“You’re worth it. You’re not alone and feel free to reach out,” Milne said.