A man who is to meditate blindfolded for 60 hours as part of Movember hopes that his challenge will have the “ripple effect” of sparking conversations about men’s mental health, following the loss of his cousin to suicide.
Cam Cooney, a 27-year-old meditation teacher who lives in Glasgow, is to meditate for 60 hours blindfolded over four days, from November 7 to November 11, for the 60 men who commit suicide every hour around the world.
Last March, his cousin Seamus Marron, 36, was one of those men.
“The death was unexpected and it shook obviously my life and the whole family in many ways”, he told the PA news agency during Movember, which takes places annually in November to raise awareness about men’s mental health.
“I looked up to Seamus as a role model and when we used to work on building sites together in Adelaide, South Australia, we would have open conversations about football and general life, and we also had personal conversations about things we struggled with.
“He was a very placid, calm-natured and just compassionate person and so after his death, Movember was personal for me.”
Having walked 600km as part of a 20-strong-team last year for Movember, he decided to do something which involved meditation this year because the act created an instant difference in him, whereby he was happier and less stressed and anxious, after admitting to not being able to deal with his emotions in the past.
“As a young teenager, I used to drink and take drugs to kind of suppress how I was really feeling,” he said.
“And when I was 19 and working on a building site, I broke my back after falling from a ladder and I was very lucky to be able to walk away from that and I spent six months in rehab building up my strength and obviously recovering and all my emotions bubbled to the surface.”
He decided to deal with his mental health head-on after he found it difficult returning to work following the recovery period and was faced with taking antidepressants or “finding something else” following a doctor’s appointment, which led to him taking part in meditation sessions.
He said the sessions “sparked a bit of a fire for me” in terms of trying to get others to embrace the activity and he became a meditation teacher in 2019 after moving to Bournemouth.
He said Seamus was one of the main male figures in his family who supported his change in career.
“He was probably the only one in my family who was interested and wanted to do it himself, but because he was in Australia and I was in the UK I couldn’t teach him – but we had the conversation many times and when he took his own life, there was obviously regret within myself that I did not teach him,” he added.
“And I have taught hundreds of people around the world who have come to me in such states with their mental health and through teaching them meditation, they have completely shifted their lives in a positive way,” he said.
“So this year when I became a Movember ambassador, I decided I am going to do meditation this year.”
For the challenge, Cooney is to wear a blindfold which “represents the darkness you feel when you are struggling with your mental health”.
“You feel like there’s no kind of light in your life at all.”
He hopes that his challenge will break down the stigma associated with male mental health and “spark conversations”.
“I think that there is still a lot of stigma around actually talking about your mental health, especially for males, and kind of maybe admitting that you may be struggling,” he said.
“I want to help spark conversations – someone might just post something on social media, which can start a conversation which could possibly save someone’s life.
“It’s a ripple effect I always say – one comment, one conversation may not seem like much to you, but someone on the other side of that screen is maybe reading that and that maybe resonates with them and may change their decision about a particular moment in their life.”