Comedian and CALM Ambassador Jack Rooke has always incorporated grief and loss into his work. From his live stand up show ‘Good Grief’, through to ‘Happy Man’ which follows him on a mission to explore male identity, mental health, and body image. Now he’s written his first book which he describes as: “A comedic memoir, meets advice guide”. Jack chatted about his inspiration for the book, his own mental health struggles, and why working with CALM is so important to him.
Jack began working with CALM at just 18 years old. Now nine years later, he’s impressed with how much better society has gotten at talking about mental health. But he hopes his début book, ‘Cheer the F**K Up’ will provide advice and tools for people who want to support others through difficult times: “What I don’t think has happened since conversations about mental health have become more prominent, is action. Very little action has come from that. I wanted to write a book to help people who have a fear of not being able to help someone properly or of saying the wrong thing, or not knowing how to actually have those conversations with people.”
Having lost a friend to suicide, Jack has drawn on his experience to give people the type of book he wishes he had. By incorporating comedy into the book, as he has done with his earlier work, he hopes to prove that conversations about mental health issues don’t have to be scary or clinical: “I’ve lost a friend, so I feel like I can come at it from all angles. I think the fact that I’m not a psychologist is better because I’m just talking from experience, and I’m giving another perspective as somebody who’s lived through it, as well as being an ambassador for CALM for a really long time. I really wanted to use humour to make people laugh and knock down the awkward barrier of having those conversations.
“The book is really kind of like a buffet, and people can choose what they find helpful for them. It’s sausage rolls and bits of cheese and pineapple on a stick, and some carrots that a toddler is sucking on.
“The name of the book was also inspired by an early campaign that CALM did: “I remember ‘Cheer the F**K Up’ being one of the first taglines that CALM had way back in the day. It was on a postcard that looked like a bit of toilet roll and it made me laugh so much. I remember the former director said to me that Prince William had found it really funny, and I just thought it was brilliant that the future king found that funny.”
Jack has also suffered from mental health issues over his life too. As well as the loss of his dad, who died when he was just 15, and his friend Olly still affecting him, he’s also experienced bouts of anxiety: “I have real episodes of, I think, a combination of feeling grief, depression and anxiety. I had never experienced anxiety until I made a BBC Three documentary about mental health. In fact, I would probably say that I underestimated anxiety in the spectrum of mental health disorders because in my head I thought it was just being really nervous. And then when I first experienced it, it was like the worst thing I think I’ve ever been through. Having really chronic anxiety that’s just sunk so deep into your brain.”