Keeping your Mental health in Check: A Conversation with Dan Draper

Releasing the stigma around Mental Health, A Conversation with Dan Draper

With mental health being at the forefront of Dan Draper’s podcasting journey, this presenter, influencer and friend is determined to remove the stigma surrounding mental health. Speaking from the comfort of our homes, Dan’s set up screamed podcaster mode. From his mic to his professionalism, it was time for me to reverse the roles and delve in Dan’s journey.

Beaming and smiling, Dan began by telling me about his childhood and growing up in Harlow, Essex. Paired with the hustle and bustle of his large family (not forgetting his dogs of course), he was also exploring his creative side as a drummer. It was apparent that Dan’s extroverted personality has been a big part of who he is from a very young age.

“I was bouncing off the walls”

Following his school life, he went on to work various jobs, and got well acquainted with HSBC for 4 years. It was during this time that a 2-week trip to Thailand left Dan with a thirst for exploration. It was at this point that Dan realised he didn’t want to be living his 9-5 any longer.

“I can’t do this anymore; I can’t just be a corporate number”

 This feeling became a catalyst for Dan to fly out and begin his travels within South East Asia. Reminiscing the people who he met along the way, who he referred to as “family” as well as being humbled by the contrasting lifestyle, Dan soaked in the sites.

“It grounded me”

Revealing that his own mental health was in top form whilst travelling, he was “on a constant high” and having the freedom to do whatever he wanted was a foundation for that.

Little did he know that the amazement and experiences of this trip were to be paired with the most devasting news.

Following the news of a close family friend passing away from terminal cancer back home, alongside aiding an ill travelling companion to hospital, the trip’s course began to change. Whilst navigating a Vietnamese hospital, Dan returned to his place of stay to receive the news from his family that his Nan had also passed away as a result of Dementia.

Already an emotionally tolling week for Dan, he made the decision to fly home early for the funeral. Prior to his journey back home, Dan was staying with a local family where he received news about Dean.

“Dean was my cousin, we grew up like brother, we were genuinely inseparable… we had that sort of twin effect”

An initial call from his Dad informing Dan that Dean had suddenly collapsed, spurred Dan to accelerate his journey back home and get on the next available flight back to the UK. Making the journey from the remote village he was staying in to the airport was over 6 hours before he made it to the airport.

“Even if he was gonna be alright, I knew I had to go back”

Arriving at the airport and connecting to the Wi-Fi was when Dan was able to video call his family back home.

Dean had not made it.

Finding out this news in such a public setting manifested grief in a way that led to Dan being stripped from processing in a private setting. Nearly missing his flight, Dan was processing the news whilst trying to make it for the flight. With Dean’s cause of death being an underlying, undetected heart condition, he lived a very healthy lifestyle and this condition could’ve affected him at any time.

21 hours and 4 hours later, Dan landed back in the UK to the support and love of his family. Running to him in the airport, Dan admitted he had exhausted himself on the journey and “had run out of tears”.

“It was like a scene from Love Actually”

It was the time following Dean’s funeral that proved detrimental to Dan’s mental health. Feeling a lack of motivation as well as bottling up emotion, led to Dan experiencing a panic attack on a Christmas gathering at the pub. Paired with a feeling of confusion and sadness, Dan interestingly noted that he didn’t want anyone to know he had suffered with a panic attack and felt he had to put on a “brave face” and continued to enjoy his night.

“There’d be times where the lights were on but no one was home for me”

With a ‘keep calm and carry on’ mindset regarding his mental health, Dan thought his feelings were just what grief was and never suspected that his mental health could be suffering. With the offer of grief counselling, Dan admitted that he let his male ego get in the way of getting help for how he was feeling.

It was at this time that Dan was offered a job with a London start up, where he built new connections and new friends. Delving in the London working life, Dan decided to make the move the city (which is where Dan first came into my life), and has been living there until the present.

2020 has become a transitional year for Dan, from changing work circumstances to getting ready to travel, it’s not been all bad for this amazing podcaster.

“This year was meant to be my year, I’m turning 30, I’m gonna travel, I’m gonna get my first tattoo…and then corona hit”

Lockdown was the reason that, for many people, mental health issues had manifested. A change of pace in life, followed by intense uncertainty, not only created stress for people but also fear. Working in the hospitality industry, Dan was also affected. The pub was closed and Dan was put on furlough. Recognising how lockdown was making him feel, Dan knew that other people must be feeling the same way.

The Dan Draper Podcast

Alongside the emotions that lockdown was stirring Dan was fuelled by the memories of Dean. Putting aside his search for another corporate job, he had decided it was time to pursue and indulge his creative side. The Dan Draper Podcast was born!

The Dan Draper Podcast is a set of conversations, hosted by Dan, that explore mental health. From mental health charities and sportsman to presenters and influencers, Dan’s goal is to release the stigma surrounding mental health. Consistency and passion are what drive Dan Draper and being a guest on his show myself, I am very excited to see what it around the corner for this amazing presenter.

This natural conversationalist, allows his guests to open up in a way where there is room for vulnerability and uses it as a tool, to educate himself further. Using exercise as a means to keep his own mental health in check, Dan is continually exploring the intricacies of mental health and checks in with his audience daily. Being transparent in this way, shows the genuine care that Dan has for connecting with his audience and showcasing both the ups and downs in his quest to get people conversing abut mental health.

Quarantine Creatives: Nicky Rose Roshini

Nicky Rose Roshini

Quarantine graced Nicky Rose Roshini and I with the beauty of a dodgy Wi-Fi connection and a video cut off, but after our resilience I finally manged to get into conversation with this gorgeous theatre head and actress. With a beaming smile and a mound of curly hair, Nicky delved straight into how she became integral to the Paines Plough team.

As a Londoner, Nicky has become used to diversity being part of her day to day life, but this wasn’t always the case during her school years. Her girls’ school didn’t surround her with many people from South Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds which meant a contrast from the culture of her home life. It astounded me to find out that Nicky was a shy child in school and didn’t fully come out of her shell until university. Pursuing Performing Arts for a-level, even Nicky’s peers were surprised to see her grace the subject.

 Going on to graduate in 2018 with a Bachelors in Drama and Theatre Arts from the University of Birmingham, Nicky pursued her passion and love for acting and theatre and had flipped her earlier shy persona on its head. Embracing her talent early on has stayed with Nicky through the rest of her journey and her creativity still continues to ooze.

At this point our Wi-Fi then permitted us a forced break and upon my return, a quick change of scenery. Nicky took our conversation in to the garden where all was well and good until a bee decided to scare the shit out of her and gave me a first hand look into her theatrics!

Nicky’s energy during our conversation was cool, calm and collected. This actress and all-round creative powerhouse, admitted she is constantly bubbling away with her ideas. Her journey into her first theatre role, was through Creative Access. With the initial application being for an administration role at Paines Plough, it came from a space of getting her foot in the door with a theatre company, but the interview panel saw more in Nicky.

Not thinking anything more of the interview, Nicky went on her way. The next day Nicky received a call from Paines Plough suggesting she might be better suited to the role of a Trainee Producer. “oh ok cool” was Nicky’s reaction (playing it cool) when deep down she was ecstatic, shocked even that a company had considered her to still come on board for something else. After acing a second interview Nicky went on to become a Trainee Producer at Paines Plough in spring 2019. Smashed it.

As a Trainee Producer Nicky had to be “very organised” and was thrown into the world of agents and actors and soaked in all the theatre. As described by Nicky a producer within a theatre company is “embedded in the creative process of creating a production”. Paines Plough provided Nicky with opportunities to educate herself and even experience Edinburgh Fringe!

“The producer is the person you go to for everything”

Nicky delved into her experience about Edinburgh and highlighted how it was an amazing immersion of all things theatre and a relocation of “the whole office”. Although it was a highlight of Nicky’s time at Paines Plough, she admitted it was difficult as she had to navigate her work mode and relaxation mode. She balanced this by making the most of the Fringe on her working days and using her days off to zone out and not puting any pressure on herself to be productive or even leave the accommodation if she didn’t feel like it.

Loving her job hasn’t stopped Nicky from pursuing extra projects outside of Paines Plough and has showcased her creativity in an array of art forms. From dance, to sketches, to singing and acting, Nicky has still kept her creative cogs churning during lockdown.

Although, Nicky’s professional creative journey is continually developing, there is a life-long condition that often tunnels and is the muse for a lot of Nicky’s creative indulgences.

Eczema.

Having suffered with severe eczema for her whole life, Nicky has often worn a mask to protect her skin and give her sense of comfort when leaving her home in London. The pollution in the air is very triggering for her skin and revealed that quarantine brought about her feeling comfortable going out in public as so many people are wearing them in lockdown. She documents her experience wearing a mask on her social media pages and gave me insight into her daily life in a mask, even outside of this pandemic.

THE WOMAN BEHIND THE MASK

Going on to chat to Nicky about her future plans,she delved into her idea of staging a one woman play where one of the primary themes would indeed be eczema. I for one am ready to see what the future has in store for Nicky.

Quarantine Creatives: Harpz Kaur

Harpz Kaur

Harpz Kaur, Harpz Kaur, Harpz Kaur! What a household name this presenter has become. Broadcasting from the heart of London, Harpz reaches over half a million listeners nationwide on the BBC Asian Network and is a proven example that with hard work and dedication you can achieve what you want, even if your path doesn’t seem as linear as others. With both of us conversing from the comforts of our loungewear the talented presenter, revealed to me that her successes today weren’t always plain sailing.

Born and bred in Huddersfield, Harpz was always an energetic personality and revealed that throughout school she “wasn’t the strongest when it comes to being academic”. Although she wasn’t theory orientated Harpz was “hyped up all the time” which allowed her to excel in more practical subjects. Coming from a South Asian background, this practical skill set didn’t necessarily align with what her family expected from her, which caused initial confusion for future Harpz. This is something that is often echoed for many young South Asian creatives. As she progressed through school her strength continued to lie in the arts and when she got to college was still unsure about what career path she wanted to pursue.

Outside of school and education she was always a “confident child when it came to home videos, filming myself, dancing around, being really loud”. Participating in dance performances and involvements in home town events allowed her to recognise that she was talented on stage. As the eldest the pressure was felt to advance more theory-based subjects in school, such as business studies, whilst working part time within the family business. It was actually Harpz’s Dad (Founder of the local Punjabi school) that reminded Harpz of Punjabi GCSE that was the final gateway to her desired college.

“My Punjabi GCSE saved my life in education; I would not have got into college”

 Uncertainty about what to pursue remained with Harpz until her final year of school where she was drawn to Media Studies in TV and Radio Broadcast. Fighting against the grain, Harpz convinced her parents that this was what she wanted to do.

Throughout our conversation Harpz uncovered more about her frustration with what is considered the norm with regards to education.  After graduating with a 2:2 from Leeds Trinity in 2011, Harpz is passionate about people recognising their own talent and skill set in their own way. There were many times that the hardships throughout university nearly catapulted her into quitting

“I never thought I would ever have that picture on the wall that every family had!”

Following conversations with her mentor, Harpz decided to go on to do a post-grad with the opportunities to “get out into the real world” and be a lot more practical. “It was really hard…but at the same time the best thing I did”. Harpz’s journalistic repertoire continued to widen and allowed her to encounter a variety of situations

Developing her resume and work experiences, Harpz delved into the world of news reporting.

She “hated it”.

With the cons of freelancing shifts claiming the forefront of Harpz’s experiences, she began to doubt her career choice. Showcasing her resilience, Harpz navigated a freelancer lifestyle from the ages of 21 to 24. She returned to Huddersfield with an extensive resume from her experience all around the UK.

A self-titled turning point for the presenter as she started volunteering for Fever radio (a Leeds community radio station). After being offered her own show, Harpz gained positivity and realised “how much I love radio”. Being offered her own show allowed creative direction on her own platform and Fever became the gateway to Harpz having her “light bulb moment” as a presenter. After cementing herself at Fever, the breakfast show presenter in the making began to utilise social media to create content.

 “Now I’m going to hammer the hell out of social media. Why? Because it’s free, we’ve all got access to it”

When talking about her 6 years at Fever Harpz’s conversation become animated and joyous. A saving grace for her at the time, Harpz networked and connected with the likes of Jay Sean and Jazzy B and got herself into a range of press conferences and event.

“If you don’t use your initiative, it’s hard”

Her love for music fuelled her next move. Learning how to DJ.

Recognising the lack of Asian female DJ’s in the North Harpz put herself out there and “got booked left right and centre” for a range of events, including sangeets and birthdays. Another milestone for Harpz uplifted her once more and as a bonus was “making money from it”.

Beginning to release mixes and more content, Harpz got noticed by Nihal Arthanayake who was a radio DJ on Radio 1 at the time. Wanting to play her mix on his final show on the station, had Harpz questioning the legitimacy of his Twitter DM. It was the real Nihal…

A national broadcaster was playing Harpz’s mix! It became a catalyst to getting her noticed by even more people in the industry. Approached by the team for the Asian Media Awards for Outstanding Young Journalist of the Year, Harpz’s support network encouraged her to enter. Getting her entry in 15 minutes before the deadline (after much persuading) she got shortlisted to the final 4.

“It blew my mind that they considered someone like me to be in the final four”

The Asian Media Awards, was a magnet for the creative community and top tier talent. Taking her family along for the ceremony, had her soaking in who she was sin the same room at. Although she didn’t win the award, this award ceremony was about to become the biggest turning point of her career.

“You won’t know where your name is being bought up in certain conversations!”

With Nihal being a prominent media name in the room, he instigated an introduction. Having no idea of who she was speaking to Harpz received a card from the introduction and left with the knowledge that Nihal had put in more than just a good word for her. After returning to her family from this conversation, Harpz looked down at the card to see who she had just spoken to.

The Head of Programmes for the BBC Asian Network.

Even I felt the frenzy of emotion when Harpz revealed who this perfect stranger was. Admitting she still got goose bumps from reminiscing that moment, Harpz went on to reveal that he didn’t get into contact for months after their meeting. She reverted back to feelings of uncertainty and revealed her relapse into a “dark space”. The following March, the Asian Network offered her the opportunity to come to the New Broadcasting House in London for a meeting. Getting to know 26-year-old Harpz, she wowed enough to bag herself a demo recording in the studio.

Returning to the BBC to record her pilot, Harpz was consumed with illness and couldn’t deliver to her highest standard. Little did she know she had done more than enough. She left thinking that was the end of that.

August 2015, Harpz got a call whilst on holiday in Morocco from the network. There were offering her the Sunday Breakfast show on the Asian Network! Rendered speechless, it hit Harpz that all this hard work has finally paid off. Making her debut in December 2015, Harpz went on to progress to get Saturday and Sunday breakfast shows. Bliss.

Building her weekend breakfast presence, Harpz took over the weekday breakfast show. Her multi-tasking was pushed to the ultimate limit as the time slot came paired with her new life in London. It took just under a year for Harpz to adjust to being one of the main faces at the BBC Asian Network, but it has become what she is known for today. It is apparent how passionate Harpz is in her slot and how much pride she takes in putting “a smile on the nation’s face” first thing in the morning.

I am still baffled by Harpz’s energy source. From waking up at 4am to host her show in the week to committing to her content outside of the studio to hosting a morning Saturday show on CBBC, Harpz’s growth is admirable.  She dances, she presents, she DJ’s and yet remains such a relatable soul. I can’t think of anyone more deserving of the opportunities that are coming her way and the support she shows for other upcoming creatives is just commendable.

Quarantine Creatives: Dilly Carter

Dilly Carter

As a Queen in the organising game, Dilly Carter has already been labelled as “London’s Marie Kondo”. With global organisational dominance on the cards for Dilly, this visionary takes full assessment of a personal space and makes it work for you. My conversation with Dilly revealed her passion for helping people and making their life a little bit easier.

Dilly’s personal journey began when she was adopted at the age of three, from Sri Lanka, and began her life in the UK. She revealed she always had an intrinsic eye for space and organising. From a young age, “even in the orphanage” Dilly always helped with the tidying. As she told me more of her story, it became apparent that organisation was wired within her.

 Growing up, Dilly cemented the empathetic side of decluttering as she was helping her own Mother, who suffers with mental health issues. Tidying wasn’t just about “immaculate kitchen cupboards” it was about providing a space with functionality and making it work for different people.

“I used to hang around supermarkets waiting for my Mum to pick me up and I would help with people’s shopping, it’s always been around me somehow”

Whilst at school, Dilly was helping her neighbours and organising local homes as well as her own house. She didn’t always know she could make a career out of her skills and went on to become a personal assistant for sales directors and large companies following school. She continued to refine her knowledge by her experience in a small fashion boutique where she “learnt to fold and organise clothes”.

Working in various office jobs to then becoming a Personal Assistant for private families, Dilly applied her intrinsic skill set to some of her live-in situations. By simply suggesting ways for families to improve their home organisation, Dilly fuelled this organisation with function and still carries this ethos to her business today.

 “I really like organising, I really like tidying up”

Following a trip with a friend, Dilly decided that she wanted to use her skills to help other people and set up as a business. The brainstorming began! The brand name, Declutter Dollies, was conceived in 2018 on a plane journey and now has a growing client base and social media following (her dollies!). Still very much in the infancy of the business, Dilly began with local homes and using leaflets as a way to spread word about her services. As her platform grew, Dilly delved into the Instagram world and began explaining what she does.

Dilly’s social media presence is one that differs from other organisers, and is a big reason why I followed her initially. Her stories reveal a very open side to her, including insight into her family life and how she organises her own home. During Lockdown, Dilly cannot enter people’s homes, so has navigated her online presence as a way to continue helping people. From her virtual cleanses to daily Instagram live videos, it is recognisable that even with the current circumstances she is committed to her business. With Declutter Dollies still in the early stages, I know Dilly has this in the bag (a very organised one at that!)

“These are good times to be in our homes, to focus on our homes, to look at what we’ve got, assess what we’ve got and think how we can improve on certain areas…we’re never gonna get this time again”

Dilly can now help you even more with her new book, Create Space, and catch her on BBC One’s new show Sort Your Life Out where she is one quarter of a dynamic team.