By Jasdip Sensi
Freddie Cocker, founder of VENT
Years of bullying and numerous attempts of suicide left Freddie’s self-worth broken, but learning from fighting his inner demons, Freddie is determined to make a change so no one else suffers the way that he did.
“I came close to ending my own life on multiple occasions, I got to the point at the age of fifteen and I felt like I was no longer capable of being a human being, I did not feel like I was not worth having friends. I was worthy of being loved.” Says twenty-four-year-old Freddie Cocker.
Freddie is a communications officer for a children’s charity in London and is the founder of Vent, a platform where boys and men can openly speak about their own mental health, break down the stigma surrounding mental health and to open up the conversation.
“I have mental health issues that directly stem from being bullied. I have depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and some other issues that born out of anxiety for example severe overthinking,” he says.
“I realised what was stopping from taking my own life was the last shred of myself worth telling me to fight on and not let the bullies win. From that point onwards I felt like if there was anything I could ever do to stop anyone feeling the way I felt at that moment then I would do my best to stop that happening.”
Freddie was bullied for the majority of his school life, he was picked on over a range of things like his surname, his weight, choice of football team he supported and his personality. The first time he wanted to take his own life was in year 9, where he lined up painkillers in the hopes to not wake up the next morning.
“One incident I have sort of a recollection of is where one of the boys who bullied me sexually assaulted me. He groped me. I don’t remember telling anyone so I was confused how the head teacher found out and asked me about it.”
Freddie believed that there was not much support when he was down in the dumps. “I was glad I had some support, by punishing the boy who groped me because I was not given much help when I wanted it, I was sometimes ignored,” he says.
“I dealt with my mental health issues on my own from an emotional and mental perspective, partially I was not given the emotional support at home either. My mum and dad intervened at times when they found out I was being bullied but they told me to go deal with it on my own.”
Freddie believes a lot of work still has to be done to stop the stigma surrounding mental health, he says, “the more conversations we have with each other about our mental health the more honest we can be. It can only be a positive and better for the society.”
When asked what advice he would give to anyone who is suffering in the same way he was he says, “first of all, I would say just talk to someone if you can, if you are not comfortable talking to your parents or your friends about it find a neutral arbiter. Find someone who you can trust and who you can open up to about how you are feeling. You do not have to tell them everything you are feeling, make that first step and create that conversation about your mental health.”
“Bottling it up can be the worst thing you do. I bottled it up for around fourteen years and it destroyed me.”