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Mental Health: 'Things like this make a difference'

AWARENESS: Leon McKenzie is using his platform to improve approaches to mental health (Image: Natalie Mayhew/ButterflyBoxing)

AT THE first Mind Reposition event of its kind, former Premier League footballer and boxer Leon McKenzie opened with a heartfelt account of his battle with depression.

The night’s host, Rachel Downie, called McKenzie brave for sharing his story on the day that he lost his friend Jlloyd Samuel in a car crash, and the audience – who were captured by the former footballer’s words – audibly agreed.

The father-of-five, who does not take medication to manage his mental health, is determined to use his lived experience of depression to help others. And if last night is anything to go by, he’s well on his way to doing so.

Speaking to The Voice, he said: “This is the start of something special...a lot of people [have walked] away today saying thank you. I’ve achieved a lot but when people are saying to me that I’ve saved their life just from me speaking, that beats any goal, any fight I’ve had in my life.”

McKenzie’s family have been supportive of him throughout his journey and he shared one of the ways he believes anyone can help someone who is struggling.

“Listening is the most important thing anyone can do and, obviously, be there for that particular person.

“I think listening is the key to just being there for someone. Even if you don’t know what to say – we don’t have all the answers – I didn’t have all the answers tonight but I’m trying. It’s all about trying, about finding that process to try. And I believe if everyone tries, we’ll all be in a better position.”


IMPACT: Leon McKenzie's journey is inspiring others (Image: Natalie Mayhew/ButterflyBoxing)

The event brought together prominent UK mental health charities and advocates The Thrive Programme, CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) and Natasha Devon, campaigner, writer and former department for education mental health champion for schools. Each mental health expert stunned the audience with stark facts on the numbers affected by mental health conditions – women are three times more likely to be diagnosed with depression or anxiety, suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK – but they also left them hopeful about the work that is being done to improve lives.

East London poet Hussain Manawer was a hit with the crowd. He performed two poems – one, a heartfelt tribute to his mother and the second, a retrospective on playground life. And singer Clinton Jordan, who is also McKenzie’s cousin, delivered an intimate performance to close the event.

The first trailer of McKenzie’s upcoming documentary, Ten Count, was also shown. The documentary film, which does not yet have a release date, looks at mental health issues athletes face after retiring from their sports.

The theme is something that is extremely close to McKenzie’s heart, having attempted suicide when his footballing career came to an end.

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