Trigger warning: this book does contain references to suicide and sucidial thoughts. There are trigger warnings in this book for the heavier reading chapters but please only read this book if you feel in the right frame of mind to do so.
“This book is a comedic memoir-meets-advice-guide about loosing my dad at fifteen, loosing a close friend to suicide at twenty-one and loosing a pair of NIKE Air Max 95s on a Northern Line tube…at twenty five.”
Firstly, and excuse my language here, what a f**king beautiful book. I absorbed it like a sponge and felt every single word. Jack Rooke has always been one of my favourite comedians since his first Edinburgh Fringe circuit, but now I only realise how beautiful his writing is.
A couple of years back Jack presented a series Happy Man, a BBC series highlighting societies pressures on young men and their mental health. I remember watching this documentary even before this organisation existed and enjoying the way he raised awareness of young male suicide but also whilst wearing a sparkly outfit, looking amazing and having a laugh.
Rooke’s new comedic-memoir expands on this, discussing loosing his dad when he was a teen, loosing his friend to suicide – all whilst discovering his own identity and dealing with his own anxieties and mental health journey. Even when writing this book Rooke shares he was recovering from a mental breakdown from the aftermath of trying to put on a brave face after filming the documentary.
I cannot hammer home enough the sheer solace I found discovering other people who could also relate to what I was going throughQuote from Cheer The F**k Up
Throughout the book Rooke highlights the importance of community and being there for others. Rooke goes on to make it clear that we won’t always know how to be there for our friends and loved ones, but just physically being there as someone to listen can be enough.
The book contains further advice and a bit of a How-To guide from Rooke from his experiences as someone who has supported friends and loved ones through mental health problems and as someone who has experienced grief and loss himself. I would say he is a true treasure for using this experience to help others.
“Being the most supportive friend is often about just acknowledging how shit the situation is, trying to focus on any positives you can see, but mainly just being a huge comfort- someone who can listen, who can offer some sort of solace and escape.”Quote from Cheer The F**k Up
This book also allows an insight into how to support a loved one ‘coming out’ as an LGBTQ+ member. The queer community face their own mental health demons, including fighting their own internalised homophobia learnt from our society and culture and even the ones we love. Rooke advises us on how we can be there as a true LGBTQ+ ally for someone discovering their identity and having a battle with their own acceptance.
“We unfortunately have a history of a hetronormative dominant culture, in all aspects of our media, storytelling and culture. Whilst great strides have been made and are still being made to diversify this, people growing up who think they might be LGBTQ+ today can still feel this sense of normal vs non-normal.”Quote from Cheer the F**k Up
Rooke discusses his friend Olly’s suicide which he opened up about in the BBC series. Rooke encourages the reader that suicide isn’t about the ‘what ifs’ or placing blame, but using this experience to try and help others. This can be incredibly difficult but there is still such a massive stigma associated with suicide that we have still to fight. Rooke highlights how suicide is still largely misrepresented in our mass media – it is still seen as something to be ashamed about, a taboo subject, a crime that has been ‘committed’.
It’s important that we collectively make sure we don’t see suicide as this massive failure but as something that we can tackle, accept, educate people about, and prevent from feeling like a valid option to the people we love in times of crisisQuote from Cheer The F**k Up
As a cis woman I have learnt so much from this book about male mental health and the male viewpoint about the stigma associated. I have also found myself crying, laughing, gasping alongside each chapter, feeling very fortunate to have seen this vulnerability from a man I have never met.
Thank you Jack for sharing your story. There is so much I haven’t covered even still in this blog post but I still want people to actually buy the book and make sure you can afford your weekly food shop.
If any of the topics in this months book have affected you please do reach out for professional support and guidance from your GP or from one of the lovely charities listed here.
If you are feeling suicidal please seek urgent help and ring 999.