Food & Wine
"It ain't weak to speak": MasterChef's Brent Draper opens up about his anxiety
In what has been labelled as "the most pivotal moment in MasterChef history", the heart-wrenching scene where tradie Brent Draper raised his hand and confessed to struggling with his mental health to breaking point has resonated with hundreds of Aussies.
Draper's decision to leave the competition and "rest his mind", as judge Jock Zonfrillo put it as he handed over a set of worry beads, was a first for the show, and a watershed moment for mainstream TV.
Speaking to news.com.au, the 31-year-old said it was just the first step in a tough journey he's beyond proud to have embarked on, as he described the darkness he felt when he arrived home.
“To be honest I was probably at the worst then,” he said of reuniting with his wife Shon and toddler Alfie.
“Because my symptoms were physical, I legitimately thought that I had a liver disease or something. My brain had tricked me into thinking that I was dying,” he said.
A conversation with a trusted longtime GP helped him understand anxiety was at the root of his symptoms, a moment which saw "the weight lift" as the realisation that he wasn't drying, and could seek help for his problems, sunk in.
Since last night's emotional MasterChef episode and Draper's Instagram video follow-up, the response from fans have been overwhelming with praise for his courage.
The humble dad says knowing he's managed to help some people has been heartwarming.
“The amount of young males reaching out to me saying this has helped them so much,” he said.
“I’ve had a lot of wives reach out saying they’d never seen their husband cry before so just to witness that was such a big thing for them. Others said they just cried together during the episode. I’ve had 58-year-old plumbers reaching out saying, ‘I was a mess.’
“A lady reached out saying she watched it with her family. All the kids were crying and asking questions and talking about life and mental health. These are kids from ages 10 to 18.
“Even my brother, he’s 17 and that’s a tough age … he messaged me saying that he’s proud of me and that’s something I never thought I’d hear come out of his mouth.
“I think it’s helped a lot of people,” he said.
As for his two-year-old son, Alfie, he hopes to show him the episode one day to teach him the importance of mental health awareness.
“This is my responsibility now,” he said.
“After going through this I need to make sure Alfie knows we are all emotional human beings, that’s what we run off – emotions.
“I want to tell him, if you find that you wake up in the morning and just feel sad – it’s OK. He’s going to see this episode one day and see me break down on it, and I think it’s going to be something that’s really powerful.”
As for what he’d pass on to those facing similar struggles of their own, his message is simple: “It ain’t weak to speak.”
“There’s nothing weak about going and getting help from a professional,” Draper stressed.
“There’s nothing weak about going to your mates and saying, ‘I’m having a really tough time at the moment’, or your wife or your girlfriend or your boyfriend. I just did on national TV.
“Nothing bad can come out of it. I’ve gone and dealt with and learnt so much; it’s been nothing but positive since I opened up.
“I like that line: If you’re not speaking it you’re storing it and storing it gets heavy. Especially for us males, we need to not just go to the pub and talk about the footy score, but talk about how your week was and what you’re feeling … and then the footy score after that,” he joked.