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.