Updated: Dec 9, 2021
Matthew Shaw is a BBC News Editor and founder of Fundamental, a new mental health initiative led by gay and bisexual men. He recently joined one of our 'Who am i?' virtual retreats, and has kindly agreed to share his experience.
Who are you?
My name is Matthew Shaw, and I am a BBC News Editor as well as the founder of Fundamental - a new mental health initiative led by gay and bisexual men.
How did you find yourself doing what you are doing?
I've worked at BBC News for 25 years and recognise now that remaining mentally healthy is something I must always work on. I had a period of depression in 2014 which knocked me for six - but with support from work, love from family and friends and a willingness to get better I got through it. This encouraged me to make the BBC even better for those of us who need help - and led me to a fellowship at the University of Michigan and serving on the government’s mental health in the workplace advisory committee. Now I’ve set up Fundamental - as I have found so many gay and bisexual men who are passionate about mental health.
What have you learnt along the way?
I have learned that getting men to talk about their mental health is hard. I truly think looking after your mind should be as acceptable, fun and inspirational as looking after your body or home. Fundamental is about the enjoyment of improving your mental health - we shouldn’t trivialise mental illness but we should make improving ourselves interesting, social and sometimes a laugh!
Why did you get involved in the ‘Who am i?’ programme?
As a 48 year old gay man who has seen a lot (been around the block is unfair) I celebrate that my journey has been relatively trouble free. But I know that despite our experience being a huge common denominator - gay men rarely talk together in groups beyond their immediate friends about what really matters to us. It’s not just a matter of safety in numbers - it’s both strengthening and revelatory to meet with people of different backgrounds who essentially share one hugely important factor in life.
Did you make any changes off the back of the retreat?
When I went to Michigan 5 years ago - my friends told me never to say no to an invitation or offer of friendship. To start again and free myself from any judgement or inhibition. The retreat reminded me of this so much - and inspired me to reach out to more men like me. It basically kickstarted Fundamental.
What relationship do you have to the LGBTQ+ community?
I have worked in media all my life surrounded by LGBTQ+ people - that’s been very fortunate. But I wouldn’t say I’m an active member of the community apart from being proud of my sexuality in the work I do. I want Fundamental to be a different approach to LGBTQ+ diversity - usually we are the add-ons to prove something is diverse. Fundamental puts us at the centre and invites allies from outside the community to prove we are for everyone.
What’s the biggest challenge you’re working through?
Surviving 2020 with a smile on my face. Living on my own has been a challenge - but I’ve worked so hard at spoiling myself, talking to friends and family, making home a haven and doing as much as I can to improve the lives of others. I appreciate I sound like a Miss World contestant.
Have you learnt anything new about yourself since the retreat?
That you can still grow from meeting new people.
How do you ‘Create Space’?
Time to breathe, time to enjoy simple stuff and time to give myself a pat on the back.
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