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: 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: Amber Sandhu

Amber Sandhu

Amber the firecracker has an absolute abundance of energy, but don’t let that fool you, this young radio producer has her head screwed on and her hands in all the right pots. Speaking from her home in the Midlands, Amber’s animated conversation brought much entertainment to us both whilst in lockdown. Even during quarantine Amber is keeping her creative juices flowing and bringing the finesse to her skill set.

Born and raised in Wolverhampton Amber went to an all-girls grammar school and was always known to chatter. Reminiscing on her teacher’s words telling her “to put that voice to good use” paired with her love for radio is what spurred Amber on for a career in media from a very young age. Whilst completing A-Levels she got her foot in the door at Wolverhampton Community Radio (WCR) and lied about her age- saying she was 18- to gain some hands-on experience. It was at this point Amber’s go-getter attitude was cementing more and more for me and her cheekiness didn’t make it hard for me to believe.

Whilst growing her experience at WCR, Amber applied for media apprenticeships but to no avail and decided to pursue her other passion in physical activity and study Sport Science. This Active Alice indulges in cricket and loves sport so educated herself further and went on to play games at a high level. Amber’s passion for the media still hadn’t extinguished as she completed internships at Sky for Soccer AM and the Daily Mirror, but radio was still where her energy lay.

Following graduation, Amber went on to be a PE teacher at Silkmore Primary school and admittedly went to school every day and “had tennis balls thrown at her”. Her gruelling schedule at this time, meant she was still putting in the hours in at WCR, working as a PE teacher whilst upholding her sports commitments and looking for full time jobs in radio. She admitted that this was a time where her “self-care didn’t exist”. Although loving her job at the school, she knew this wasn’t her long-term dream.

After applying to the BBC Asian Network through Creative Access, Amber made her way to London for her first interview, not realising that this would be the first step into the world of national radio.  Off the back of her interviews, Amber was a top-notch candidate for an internship at the BBC as an assistant radio producer.

Starting on a Tuesday in the spring of 2019, Amber walked into the Birmingham studios to be greeted by no team (little did she know that people typically work from home on a Tuesday). “I didn’t meet anyone; I didn’t meet anyone on the team… and as the week went on I met the team, everyone was super nice and welcoming”. She revealed that her first few months at the BBC, she “struggled to come out of her shell” in fear that she wouldn’t be taken seriously. As an intern in the media industry, this is a commonality for many trainees as it’s often their first step within their chosen enterprises.

“I think I got a bit of imposter syndrome”

As Amber continued to develop, she showcased her potential. By working on the cricket world cup to going on to assistant produce weekend shows, her proactivity ensured her success amongst the team. An example of her initiative is shadowing the social media team in the London studios and then learning to create social media content for the Birmingham studios too. This thirst for learning and continually wanting to advance is a tip that Amber gives to anyone starting off in a creative industry. The importance of finding a work life balance is something that is apparent to Amber’s journey and reminds future interns to make sure to enjoy time.

“You’re still learning and you’re new as well…be proactive and be creative”

Quarantine Creatives: Amrit Matharu

Amrit Matharu is truly a force to be reckoned with. From engaging the nation with her work at the BBC to indulging in personal projects to empower other people, it quickly became apparent that Amrit actions her ideas whole heartedly and seeks opportunity in the most unlikely places. Based in Northampton, Amrit is a true media chameleon and is growing her skill set as well as her following. With me chilling in my hair band and Amrit rocking box braids, I felt like I’d caught her in a rare moment where she wasn’t going 100 miles an hour.

Born and raised in Northampton, Amrit was educated here and grew to be an extroverted social being even from a young age. Educating others was always primary to Amrit’s values and she admitted that she often felt like she “had something to share”. Her initial career inclination was to go into teaching as a way of sharing her knowledge and inspiring others, but a teaching module at university made her realise that teaching wasn’t going to be the way she wanted to insight knowledge. “I realised it was all just paperwork!” At this point in her life Amrit didn’t know that “broadcasting was a thing or an option”.

Studying English Language and Literature at De Monfort University Leicester , Amrit began blogging and getting more in tune with the media world. The conception of her brand Amaretto’s World was to be, and still is, the platform that she was to share her endeavours and future involvements with her readers. With her love for writing fuelling her career choices, Amrit went on to “do a load of internships” for different magazines and working a newspaper office. It was during this time that a staff member suggested to Amrit a career in broadcast.

“People can do that as a job!”

After graduating from Leicester in 2013, Amrit’s proactivity leaked into her professional life and encouraged her ever widening accomplishments. From turning her passions into her job, she set about to explore the world of journalism. From working in the fashion department for Avon to waltzing through the head offices of different brands, Amrit admitted she felt a “little bit like Ugly Betty” and wanted to work for a magazine or newspaper. After immersing herself in different types of writing and journalism, Amrit’s next career move would bring her through the doors of the BBC.

Training and working as an assistant radio producer at the BBC Asian Network, Amrit continued to build her network as well as learning more about herself as a person. By starting at the Birmingham studio, Amrit then quickly became involved in the modelling world and promoting body confidence on her social media platforms. Representing Yours Clothing Amrit has been involved in many campaigns and is another great example of her go getter attitude.

As Amrit’s career breadth was growing and growing, she revealed that she had to learn to slow down and find balance. “Sometimes I would feel guilt and not know how to relax”. Many creatives feel this way, but Amrit did stress the importance of doing so for her well-being. After her own Father was diagnosed with cancer, Amrit became a carer and was diagnosed with arthritis herself. In a way it was almost her body telling her when things were getting too much.

“I was in so much pain at one time that I couldn’t walk…I’ve always put other people’s needs first…it’s almost like my body is telling me to slow the fuck down”!

With corona virus putting a hold on so many people’s lives, Amrit has taken on the responsibility of being a primary care giver for her family. This caring side to Amrit was resonant throughout my whole conversation with her. Even with helping people in the media world, she disclosed that creatives ought to collaborate and not create a hostile dog eat dog environment. Even as an interviewee, Amrit’s conversation was laced in clarity and a real honesty. It was a pleasure to speak to her and I can truly confess that all the positive mantras and stories across her social media are definitely true to form. An organic heart will always produce organic work and Amrit Matharu brings that to the ever growing media table.