Though it was normal for Joe’s mum to hide her struggles and attempt to carry on, young people today have grown up sharing their lives far and wide on social media, says Polly Hudson
Image: BBC/Mindhouse/Phil Sharp)
It was the first time in more than 30 years that they had ever talked about it.
“I did hide it, from everybody. I wanted people to think I was OK,” the woman confesses tearfully.
“Why? Why would you do that? Why not communicate with people?” her son, now 36, asks, also welling up.
“The shame. The guilt. To protect you.”
On Monday night, documentary Joe Wicks: Facing My Childhood highlighted the importance of talking openly about mental health by showing the consequences of what happens when you don’t.
Decades on from Joe’s difficult childhood, three million children in the UK – six kids in every class – are now living with a parent with a mental illness.
Many of those parents, like Joe’s mother Raquela, have never spoken about it, which can leave both children and adults feeling desperate and alone.
As a result many young people go off the rails – although fortunately in Joe’s case, only briefly – while their grown-ups continue to suffer in silence without help.
To Joe’s mum, keeping quiet was the only option. But to the younger, more open Joe, he finds it baffling that she did. On the same day Joe’s documentary aired, 17-year-old footballer Jake Daniels announced he was gay, becoming the first pro footballer in 30 years to do so.
“I am hoping that by coming out I can be a role model, to help others come out if they want to,” he explained. “I am only 17 but I am clear that this is what I want to do and if, by me coming out, other people look at me and feel maybe they can do it as well, that would be brilliant.”
The last footballer who revealed he was gay during his career – Justin Fashanu in 1990 – ended up taking his own life. In contrast, Jake’s news has been met with nothing but praise, admiration and gratitude. The times, it seems, are a-changing – at last.
The stigmas around admitting who you really are, and the challenges you face, are breaking down. And the most heartening aspect of this is that while people of Joe Wicks’ mum’s generation need to be reminded that it’s OK to talk, it apparently doesn’t even occur to those of Jake Daniels’ generation not to.
They have grown up oversharing, and as a result they do so happily, and are open to, and accepting of everyone.
For all the negative aspects of social media, the culture of telling everyone everything about yourself seems to be working in this generation’s favour here.
Even if you live in an area with not much diversity, or don’t personally know anyone who is gay, you’re still regularly exposed to all sections of society.
Yes, there will always be bullies and trolls, but largely, it’s never been more OK to just be whoever you are.
Our children growing up in a world like this, having freedom, that bright future, is something we should all be grateful for.
Of course, the brutal reality is that at Jake Daniels’ next match, the opposing team’s fans may well use the new information they’ve learned about him in some kind of upsetting chant. But maybe only the older fans, with outdated views. And these views, thankfully, will one day be extinct.
Looked back on, like the dinosaurs, with surprise that they ever could have existed.