He made his career fighting his way to the top of the boxing world and now Frank Bruno is encouraging mental illness sufferers to stop fighting their feelings and open up instead.
“There is no need to struggle alone or in silence,” the former heavyweight champion said during a visit to a Black Country mental health charity.
He told sufferers it was time to take down their barriers and speak openly about their problems.
The retired sportsman was joined by comedian Ruby Wax at a chat show style debate organised by Marbles, a charity which promotes good mental health and aims to destigmatize perceptions that surround sufferers.
It was held at the charity’s second hand furniture warehouse in Great Bridge yesterday and followed by a book signing with more than 70 visitors attending to hear the stars talk about their personal struggles.
The ex-boxer, who has battled with bipolar disorder since 2003 and has had spells in hospital, said: “Since I have been open about my struggle I hope it has inspired people, not just men, to come forward and not be afraid.
“Mental health problems can happen to anyone. I want to encourage people to talk about how they are feeling, don’t fight it.
“There is no need to struggle alone or in silence. Men struggle with pride and stress over what people might say but that adds more pressure.
“Don’t fight against your feelings, let them out. There is help available.”
He added: “Marbles is a very good charity. I am very privileged and honoured to be invited here today and hope to help the charity more in the future.”
For many years, the 52-year-old has been a champion for mental health awareness and has met with Government ministers to help get better treatment for sufferers.
American author and chat show host Ruby Wax told the audience how depression would overcome her ‘like a tidal wave’ and talked about society’s belief there is a quick fix to depression. She said: “Everyone wants an instant pill but you can’t get a six pack by only doing one sit up.
“You wouldn’t tell a diabetic to come off their insulin so why do people think it’s ok to tell someone with a mental health issue to get off the drugs or cheer up?
“It is a disease where people don’t know how to treat you or speak to you and because of this suffers feel ashamed, on top of stress on top of shame and it drives you wild.”
She added: “It is a real honour to be asked here. This is how people should act about mental health, talk openly and have a support network. So many people do not have the support that this fantastic group offers.”
Kevin Robbins set up Marbles in 2005 after struggling to come to terms with his own bipolar disorder.