Brendan ‘Breno’ Cowie has been through the darkest valley – but he’s made it to the other side, and wants to help other hurting men to have hope for better days, too.
That’s why he’s added his support to the “It’s Ok To Talk” hashtag campaign—encouraging men to open up about their struggles and mental battles.
Brendan faced a monumental struggle of his own, after the sudden death of his 35-year-old wife Cathleen to a heart aneurysm in October last year. In one tragic instant, he lost the love of his life, and became a single dad to baby Ryan, who is now 15 months old.
It’s been a long journey through grief and pain, but Brendan’s found a lot of peace and courage through his friends, his music (he’s in a South Coast rock band), and his faith.
And although he’ll be going solo this Father’s Day weekend, he wants to encourage any single dads who are struggling, to know that life gets better—and that they’re not alone.
- Healing My Shattered Soul: Brendan ‘Breno’ Cowie’s Journey of Tragedy & Hope
- Aussie Surfers Unite For Mental Health
Crying Doesn’t Mean You’re Weak
Brendan’s biggest advice for men who are going through mental and emotional battles, is to open up and talk to people they trust.
“Make sure you’re venting and talking about it, and not bottling things up,” he said. “Make sure you’ve got a good support crew. When you bottle things up, it’s not healthy and you might do some things you will regret doing.
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“It’s OK to cry, boys – men! Crying is normal. God created it for a reason. It’s OK to talk. People aren’t going to think you’re weak. We’re all humans, we all have emotions, we all have issues and we need to talk about it. And if we don’t, depression can kick in. And that’s not good.”
Having faced some very tough emotions himself, he knows how low men can get. And he wants to help prevent the worst from happening.
“The last thing I want to hear, is a single dad or a single mum taking their life when they have people that want to reach out and talk to them,” he said. “Life is good. Life can be good. It can be really good.”
The Social Media Campaign To Prevent Suicide
Last week, Brendan posted a message and photo of himself on Facebook (above) in support of the #ItsOkayToTalk campaign.
Initiated a month ago by UK rugby league player Luke Ambler, the campaign encourages people to post selfies on social media, holding their hand in the “OK” sign, with the hashtag to match.
The message is that there’s nothing weak about sharing your struggles.
Ambler started the campaign after unexpectedly losing his brother-in-law Andy Roberts, who had a two-year-old daughter, to suicide. Realising that men often don’t feel safe to vent their feelings, he wanted to change the culture of silence among men.
— Luke Ambler (@Ambler09) July 31, 2016
“Sometimes men don’t want to talk as they feel ridiculed or think that they’re putting a burden on their families,” Ambler told The Guardian.
“Then if you try talk about it with the lads, it ends up being turned into banter. I began to think that there was nowhere Andy could have spoken to anyone about what was going on.”
Ambler started his campaign with a single tweet (above).
In its first month, celebrities around the world have added their support, including including comedian Ricky Gervais, and Australia’s Cronulla Sharks rugby league captain Paul Gallen (below).
The single biggest killer of men under 45 is suicide! In 2014 4623 men took their own life. That’s 12 men everyday, one every 2 hours!! 41% of men who contemplated suicide felt they couldn’t talk about their feelings. #itaintweaktospeak #ITSOKAYTOTALK We need everyone’s support take a selfie and share.
With suicide being the biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK, according to the Guardian, Ambler also decided to start a group in his hometown of Halifax called “Andy’s Man Club”.
“It’s somewhere for men to get together and talk with other like-minded people – and they don’t just sit and talk,” he said. “We do physical activities, we discuss coping strategies and talk about all sorts of things from anger to debt management, even things like access to children.”
Ambler hopes his campaign can help halve the UK’s male suicide rate in the next 5 years.
Don’t Give Up, There is Hope
Back here in Australia, where men die from suicide at more than twice the rate of women, Brendan Cowie’s helping out not just by sharing his feelings, but also his faith. As a Christian, he encourages men to consider praying and looking to God if they are struggling with life.
“If you can’t see hope, don’t worry, it’s there, it’s coming.”
“I would say to the single dads out there, don’t give up,” he said. “God doesn’t want you to give up. God wants you to press forward. And if you can’t see hope, don’t worry, it’s there, it’s coming. We can’t see things clearly right now. But it’s coming. It’s God’s promise to us, you know, He came to give us hope.”
“And if you’ve got a good support network you’ll be able to be accountable with someone and they can pray for you.
“Find a church. There’s plenty of churches that want to support you through the tough times. We’re here to help each other. If any single dads out there want to talk, Facebook me…I’m happy to message you and talk to you.
“We’ll probably encourage each other.”
If you’re going through depression or struggling in some other way and need to talk, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.