Q&A with… Julian Pace, CEO and founder Happiness Co. The tragic death of his father prompted Julian Pace to set up a social movement to improve how men deal with depression and take control of their mental health.
MF: What is your personal experience with mental health?
JP: At 21 years of age, I went through the hardest and darkest time in my life. My father took his life and, as a result, my life came crashing down. I quickly spiralled into a dark place and adopted toxic behaviours as a distraction from my pain. After going through this period filled with guilt and shame for some time, I decided to take action and find a way to take control of my life.
Since that day, I have made it my mission to not only find my own purpose and happiness but to help other people find theirs as well. I founded my social enterprise Happiness Co, which also has a movement called the ManEnough Movement that focuses on improving the way men view happiness and vulnerability.
MF: Why do you think men struggle with their mental health?
JP: In Australia, about seven men die by suicide each day. Three times as many men as women took their lives in 2019 alone, according to Beyond Blue. These staggering statistics reflect the increasing number of men experiencing depression and who sometimes
take their lives as a result.
I believe that one of the main reasons men specifically struggle with their mental health is because of the belief that asking for help or admitting to struggling is a sign of weakness. There is also a lot of pressure on men to be seen as tough, which still carries the stigma of being emotionally tough, despite the pressures this adds to men not feeling comfortable expressing how they feel.
MF: How do you think men usually deal with mental health struggles?
JP: Avoidance and distraction are the most common ways men deal with plummeting mental health. I see this time after time and have personally experienced it myself.
When I lost my dad, everything happened so rapidly. I knew then that this was not something I could have prepared for. All I wanted was for the pain to go away and I had no tangible way to come out on the other end. I was stuck in the pain, too busy suffering to spend time making my life better. When the pain overwhelmed me, I believed that I was lost in a very dark cave, when in fact, I was in a tunnel – and I ultimately found my way out.
MF: How did you deal with your pain and turn it into your purpose?
JP: When I decided to take action, I was very much focused on building strategies and coping mechanisms. I knew that I needed to focus on and envisage what I wanted in my life and the people I wanted to have around me. I then decided to make choices.
One of the big parts of this was forgiving myself and forgiving my father, as I had a lot of shame and guilt surrounding his death for a long time. I think this is a big thing for a lot of men because they often hold onto things when there is really so much power in letting go to make space for change. They so often define themselves by their mistakes rather than the person they are.
One of the bravest things a man can do is open up about how he feels.
MF: How does Happiness Co help?
JP: I founded Happiness Co in 2017 as a social enterprise with the goal to impact 10 million lives in 10 years by providing tools and strategies to find and sustain happiness.
Our ManEnough Movement gives men the skills and tools to support them through life’s challenges. The work we do focuses on what kind of person they would like to be, and we then help them make decisions towards becoming that person.
Men have an incredible ability to be brave. We know this from what we see in sports, careers, achievements and many other skills. Our aim is to show men that being open about how they feel is one of the hardest things a man can do, and hence one of the bravest things.
MF: What advice would you give to a man who is struggling with his mental health?
JP: Something really important I would like to leave with anyone struggling is that depression is not always a bad thing when dealt with appropriately. Although it can be crippling and it is very real, it is an opportunity to learn and grow and become a stronger person.
My best advice would be to seek support and help when you recognise you are struggling because once you know this, you can gain the right support to take action and control over your life.
At Happiness Co, we offer a range of tailored programs for individuals and groups, which work in the pre-emptive mental health space in order to provide strategies and tools for getting through struggles to find happiness and purpose.