Presenter Chris Sherlock on music, mental health and his latest book outing
“I see that your wristband says ‘hope’ on it.”
It’s hope that permeates every moment in conversation with radio presenter Chris Sherlock. His story is one of overcoming, one of moving past a childhood marred by bullying to a life lived for telling stories of mental health and recovery.
I explain that my wristband is for Hilinski’s Hope, a charity focused on destigmatising mental illness, especially for young people and athletes.
This knits perfectly with what Chris does, not only for the range of guests he has on his radio show, which broadcasts here on campus from Flirt FM, but also because of the chapter he contributed to Mental Health for Millennials Volume 6.
Entitled ‘My Soundtrack for Hope’, in it Chris outlines how music was an important coping mechanism for him while moving on from the stress and anxiety caused by his experience of bullying.
“A bit of everything really!,” he says of what fills out his playlist, though he encourages readers of his chapter to make their own hopeful soundtrack.
“60s, 70s, 80s, 90s. Whatever was on the radio. We’d be listening to music in the house and anything could pop up on Chris’ jukebox.
“Mental health is everywhere in music. Look at ‘High Hopes’ by Kodaline. Maybe [lead vocalist] Steve Garrigan didn’t know exactly what it represented at the time but it is a hopeful, uplifting song.”
Helen Shapiro’s “Walking Back to Happiness” is mentioned as another highlight, rather appropriately given Chris’ journey to this point.
His route on to Flirt FM’s airwaves is one typified by perseverance and a refusal to take no for an answer. His efforts to break into the broadcast world weren’t successful at the first time of asking.
“I had recorded a demo for another radio station and heard nothing back, so it mustn’t have been great! But I saw a poster advertising openings at Flirt FM for presenters and that ended up working out and here I am now.”
Chris is quick to emphasise that while seeking help and support is vital to managing mental health, it can fall on the individual to pick themselves up and above all, never give up hope.
“I’d say to anyone struggling with anything, be it depression or anxiety or anything else, just try and get out of your comfort zone.
“Sports were never my thing but it could be sports for someone else, exercise does wonders for some people. It was the music and my passion for radio that got me through.”
Chris’ past, though marked by a dark period, has led him to a place and a platform from which he can help others through his radio show, contributions to two volumes of Mental Health for Millennials and giving talks at schools.
“I never would have thought I’d be called an anti-bullying campaigner. It seems strange to say, but everything happens for a reason and even though what happened to me was so terrible, something positive can come out of it.
“I always say if even one person hears something or reads something that helps them then that’s enough to make a difference.”
He feels that openness and understanding have grown around mental health over time but that more can always be done to help people in need.
“Over the past three or four years and especially since Covid I think people are talking more. The lockdowns brought a lot of problems for some people and I think that encouraged them to talk and open up about how they’re feeling.
On the stigma surrounding male mental health, Chris says progress has been made to tackle the issue.
“It’s not just men either, there’s a bit of a stigma for everyone. It’s about men, women, everyone being able to get help and get support,” he says.
Having welcomed guests on to his show with a wide range of conditions from OCD to body dysmorphia, he stresses the importance of understanding for wellbeing.
“People can tell their stories and others can hear those stories and maybe say to themselves ‘oh, that sounds like what I’m going through’ and then they can go somewhere to get more information and get the help they need.
“Just being able to put words or put a label to something can make all the difference.”
Mental Health for Millennials Volume 6 is available now from Book Hub Publishing.
The first word of Chris Sherlock’s contribution?