Group photo of young people posing for camera at Thorpe Park
Kohliah’s story: Being aware of your difficulties is a strengthImage by: Becoming A Man
Group photo of young people posing for camera at Thorpe Park
6 October 2023

Kohliah’s story: Being aware of your difficulties is a strength

BAM Counsellor
Kohliah Roberts
4 minutes read time

Kohliah, a London-based counsellor working with BAM (Becoming a Man) shares his personal journey that led him to support other young men’s mental well-being.

I grew up in South East London with my parents and two brothers. When I became a teenager, my outlook on the world had changed from a goggle-eyed boy, to a young man who was curious of who I was in the world.

I grew up in low-income housing, but I was always surrounded by a sense of happiness and a feeling of being content.

" As I grew older and shared my experiences with others, I came to realise that I was not alone. "

Despite the happiness around me, under the surface I struggled. This was a feeling of not being good enough, alongside the heavy feeling of inadequacy, as if something was missing.

“Where did this feeling come from?” was a question I asked myself, but couldn’t quite find an answer that made full sense. How I dealt with this was by keeping it in, smiling and being outwardly friendly to others, in an attempt of detaching from the feelings I struggled with.

I didn’t feel like I had anyone to really speak to. I thought what I was feeling was normal. “Everyone experiences this” is something I would tell myself.

Growing up, I was very close to my mother and this relationship helped me open up with someone I felt I trusted. It was from there that I expanded my trust in opening up to others. The first person I did this with outside of my family was my then English teacher, Mr Lawrence.

Mr Lawrence showed me that I could feel safe opening up without judgement and I genuinely felt like he cared. This showed me that opening up was not a negative thing, but a positive one. It allowed me to be heard, to connect with someone that understood, or wanted to understand.

As I grew older and shared my experiences with others, I came to realise that I was not alone. If I had spoken up, or reached out to someone when I was a teenager, I would have realised then that others were able to identify with the struggles I had faced.

I made it my personal mission to get into a career where I could help others. I felt it was a purpose for me to connect to people who not only felt voiceless, but who felt alone with inner struggles that affected their mental health.

I became a BAM counsellor because it spoke to my purpose. I wanted to help young people open up about their internal struggles and provide a safe space where they could work through issues they might be facing.

BAM offers young boys the opportunity to shape who they are by aiming to reach the full version of themselves. I felt it necessary to dedicate my career path in something I felt would have benefited me when I was younger.

I currently live in Beckenham, London and run a counselling practice, which offers a therapeutic space for those seeking support with their mental health. I also work for the Mental Health Foundation as a counsellor, working in schools offering group and one-to-one sessions with boys aged between 12-16.

Why I support Movember is ultimately due to understanding the importance that as men, we exist in a social construct that speaking about feelings is a sign of weakness. This solemn expectation hinders good mental health. In this way of thinking, so many men hold the weight and burden of their problems alone until it builds up, potentially leading to an emotional breakdown due to not having the tools and access to express themselves in the right way.

If I could share any advice, it would be to recognise that you are not alone. Opening up and being aware of your difficulties is a strength that can help improve your mental health for the better. There is hope in speaking about it.

BAM is a mental well-being intervention that aims to support young men’s personal development, by taking into account their lived experience and the often-difficult environments they must navigate.

Thanks to funds raised by the Movember Community, read how project BAM has scaled up, reaching more young men to support their mental health and future self.