How Paddy McGurgan Is Joining The Conversation And Raising Awareness for Mental Health

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The day I met paddy McGurgan to chat about his campaign “You Are Worth More Than Your Darkness” I was ironically having a pretty poor mental health day myself. While Paddy and his team may turn to makeup as their vice, I turn to fashion. In this case I’d put on my armour in the form of a vintage leather jacker complete with 80s structured shoulders, sequins down the sleeve and my favourite pair of black knee high boots – the same pair I wear either when I mean business or am really in need of a confidence boost. This time around it was the latter.

Among other things going on in my head, I felt nervous. I’d never met Paddy before. I didn’t know what to expect but very quickly it became clear that the nerves weren’t necessary.

From the second I walked through the doors of the Make Up Pro store, I felt nothing but warmth. I was greeted by the friendliest of staff at the front desk who chatted away, made a point to remember my name (it’s the little things) and without meaning to, completely put me at ease.

What’s clear from the outset is the closeness between employer and employees within the Make Up Pro store, something Paddy would later explain the importance of within the business and its core values. What’s even clearer is the genuine passion both Paddy and his team feel when it comes to raising awareness for mental health. That’s exactly the mission they’re chasing with their “You Are Worth More Than Your Darkness” image campaign. This year they joined the all-important conversation surrounding mental health, using their world-class makeup artistry and superior skill set, allowing their creative expression to do the talking in order to explore the emotional darkness that so many people experience in their lifetime.

Through the campaign the Make Up Pro Store are reaching out to politicians, heads of state and nationwide decision makers in the hope that more will be done to curb the soaring rates of suicide faced across the UK, Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland, and that those who need it most are looked after with the services they need.

Make Up Pro store are also hosting a demo in aid of Action Mental Health on 25th October 2018 in the Belfast store from 7-9pm. All proceeds go to Action Mental Health and are available to buy here.

On behalf of The Style Edit, I met with Paddy to discuss the inspiration behind the campaign, the impact of social media on our mental health and the responsibilities employers have over the mental health of their employees.

On the idea behind the campaign

“It was always something that was very close and personal to me, even with different members of our team and even academy students where I’ve seen first hand just how traumatising it is for those that are suffering from anxiety and various mental health issues.

Make up has the potential of really allowing people to lose themselves and there’s so much good behind it. I feel like sometimes it gets a bad reputation because when used in the wrong way it can be used as completely morphing into somebody completely different.

I have a friend who went through a really tough time a number of months ago and it resulted in somebody taking their own life. I read back on a Facebook status that the person had put up and the description was how that darkness can creep up. I thought it was a very good way of describing it. The image I wanted to create was almost in a sense that side that you constantly portray, that you would expect to see on Instagram – the smokey eye, the perfect skin – versus what’s underlying, the side you cant see in the picture – the darkness, the self-deprecation, the anxiety, numerous, numerous things that can all be linked to attacking your mental health and the state of your mental health.”

On the process of creating the campaign image

“We started with the beauty side first and then sketched out the other silhouette of the face. We took photos on our own iPhones to make sure it was obvious there was second face and it didn’t look like a shadow, instead looking like that morphing of two selves. We had to make sure it was very noticeable and that the angle and the curve of the outline of the face was right.”

On how he provides support for employees on issues surrounding mental health

“By understanding them. I think with every job you have the potential of taking on stress and with so many industries and jobs, you’re under pressure. This one in itself (makeup artistry), there are lots of different things that can affect your mental health. I think knowing each one of the people who work for me individually, knowing and being able to spot whenever I see that they need a bit more TLC or more creative guidance. I believe that everyone who works for me is so passionate about what they do and whilst that’s good it can also be – if its not managed in the right way – detrimental because I know personally first hand as an artist looking at what I’m producing or creating, sometimes that I question my work and you have that tug of war with yourself. I recognise that with the artists as well. I know that sometimes it takes pulling someone out of their normal floor and service duties and bringing them on a shoot with me to get them back on track, listening to them and what they want to do next.

I think a true artist is never someone who’s going to become complacent with what they do. They’re always going to push themselves. They’re always going to want to advance themselves. They’re always going to want to gain some sort of recognition for what they create and I try to help by giving them support and helping them along the way. It’s making sure they’re never put into compromising positions where they’re put outside their own comfort zone.

It’s not like this overwhelming policy. I don’t think thats how to treat it. I think its really important that you deal with each individual and what they present when you’re there and you catch up with your team. Checking in with them but not going into it in too much depth because you don’t want to pry within a personal life either. You have to have that level of professionalism within what you’re doing but just recognising if someone is a bit off with their mood or whatever the case may be. May be its a case where they’ve not taken enough time for themselves because a lot of my artists aren’t from the area like here in Belfast for example, and maybe they just need to get home to their families for a few days and catch up and chill. It’s the smallest things that can really make the difference.”

On the impact of social media on our mental health

I think it’s definitely been a massive contributor. It’s increased the pressure that a lot of people feel put under. I feel its another way of attacking self-esteem. People are literally hanging off the edge of their phone and refreshing to see how many likes they’re getting on pictures or how many views how much engagement and they’re questioning ‘why hasn’t this person engaged?’ I’ve listened to these conversations.

I think there’s a tremendous amount of pressure put on and I think it’s hard for younger people to get a perspective over reality versus what they see online. I think people are gearing themselves up to live up to this filtered version of people’s lives that they see portrayed through the posting that they see and I think that in itself is very difficult. I think there are very few people who haven’t compared themselves to someone in some form. I don’t even necessarily think its only an age thing. I think if you’re online and you’re on social media you always have that potential to be dragged into a negative place.

I’ve had to put certain coping mechanisms in place as well and different people who I felt was maybe pulling my energy in the wrong place and I’ve not followed them any further – not because they’ve done anything but I felt I had to recognise that it was making me feel a certain way and I really had to stop that. I think you can get caught up very easily and I know I’ve been caught up in it and I’ve had to say to myself ‘right, seriously you need to catch yourself on’. 

On taking a more proactive approach to our mental health on a day to day basis

You need to find different ways that will soothe your mind. For me I love sitting and sketching, it calms me down. If I’m feeling anxious I’ll sit and sketch or I’ll go for a swim. Water calms me down, even the sound of the water. Different things like that. Meditation. Yoga. There’s lots of different things.

I’m not saying that what works for someone will work for lots of different people but what I am saying is no matter who you are you’re going to come into contact with different things that are going to cause stress and we’re going to have to deal with those as they reveal themselves and recognise that they can, for every person, build up so we need to find other ways to deflect that build up and try and reduce it when you do feel like things are overwhelming. It’s at that point especially you need to reach out, speak to someone. You need to have the right people around you that you can trust, a circle of friends or family. There’s so many different people who you can contact.

I think we also need to put things in place as a society as well, to help parents whose children are incredibly affected by mental health especially when it becomes depression, when it becomes other more extreme versions of what peoples mental health and mental state are. We need to be there to support not just the person whose going through it but also the family that have someone they care very deeply about go through all of those things. What’s best for them? What are their steps? If you had someone that you cared very much about, where do you start to help them? Yes of course we listen and we’re there to say you’re not ugly, you’re not bad, you’re not incompetent, you’re not all of those various things. but other than that what else can we do? Who is the best person to speak to if your pressures are from different backgrounds – has it come from bullying? Has it come from sexual abuse? Who is the best person to speak to if you decide to go to counselling? Yes, there are lots of different counsellors but there has to be a process for all of that as well. If the person doesn’t necessarily want to get there, how does the family get that person to reach out for help?

On his hopes for the outcome of the campaign

That it continues to reach further and further. If it just helps anyone and reminds them that first of all, they’re not isolated. They’re not the only person to feel like that. There are so many different ways that they can recognise and start to put things in place to speak to other people and to find different ways of controlling their mental health.

We’re doing an event at the end of the month as well that will hopefully raise some cash that can be put to good use.

I think the final goal would be that we see NI figures reduce, that we see much more businesses take action with the people that work for them and that we see schools support all of that from a younger age and we start to build that culture and really see things change.

The Make Up Pro Store demo in aid of Action Mental Health takes place on 25th October 2018 in the Belfast store, 7-9pm. All proceeds go to Action Mental Health and tickets are available to purchase here

Niamh Crawford-Walker

Niamh is a full time fashion and features writer at The Style Edit. Her work has previously appeared in IMAGE magazine, and Emirates Woman.

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