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TV presenter Richie Driss talks about turning to CALM

Blue Peter host and TV presenter Richie Driss takes most things in his stride. When he’s not bungee jumping or swimming with sharks, he’s interviewing a whole host of famous faces. But there’s one thing Richie’s found challenging in the past, and that was talking about his feelings. We caught up with him to hear about his experience with the CALM helpline and why opening up wasn’t as scary as he thought.

For someone who’s interviewed a brag-worthy bunch of A-listers, Richie Driss seems to have his feet firmly planted on the ground. He’s a busy guy and his job as a presenter has sent him on all sorts of weird and wonderful adventures. We’re lucky to catch him in some downtime and have the chance to talk to him about what brought him to CALM for support.

Richie’s interviewed some pretty big names and despite coming across as remarkably cool in interviews, he admits that questioning celebs comes with a level of anxiety:

“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get nervous, even though I’ve done countless interviews and spoken to some of the biggest names in the world. What alleviates my anxiety is preparation. I’ll delve into the internet and find something we have in common, literally anything so that when I first step in the room I’m armed with a link between us. Without wanting to sound grim, if I’m sat in the room with someone like Samuel L. Jackson, the last thing I think to myself is, he poos like everyone else.”

All jokes aside, Richie Driss is talented at what he does, attracting attention for how he manages to extract juicy gossip from people like Denzel Washington - a personal hero of his. Hyper aware of how interviews can go very wrong, Richie’s chat with Denzel went very right, going viral (something he’s especially pleased about as he delayed a holiday for). But like many of us, he’s prone to new job nerves and found self-doubt creeping in when he started his job on Blue Peter:

“When I first started, the Imposter Syndrome was very real and I remember thinking to myself multiple times ‘what an earth am I doing here?’ Blue Peter is an integral part of culture in the UK and people are always asking for a badge. The fact it was such a huge platform was both a gift and a curse, because it came with the pressure of wanting to do it justice. My co-presenter, Lindsey Russell was there to remind me it wasn’t a big deal if you make a mistake and that I wasn’t reading the news.”

Attacking each day with some serious get-up-and-go, presenting kid’s TV demands some big energy. It’s obvious Richie loves his job, but we’re curious how he puts on a positive front on the days when he’s feeling a bit crap, something he admits isn’t always easy:

“When it comes to children’s TV, there’s no way you can be anything other than absolutely buzzing constantly. Some days that’s not as easy as others, but usually as soon as someone tells me I’m on air the love of the job overrules anything that could be going on in my personal life.”

While Richie seems comfortable talking to CALM today, he’s not always been so open about what’s on his mind, admitting that it just wasn’t the done thing while he was growing up:

“I wasn’t there yearning to express myself, I just bottled everything up. Growing up I found it hard to express my emotions, I just didn’t think it was the done thing. I thought it was considered showing off or begging for attention. I grew up in a very small family and when my parents split up we lived in a refuge. The older you get, the more that stuff piles up. There’s got to be a point where you need to express yourself, you snap or something happens.”

Hitting rock bottom doesn’t look the same for everyone. For Richie Driss, he realised he needed support when he was unable to watch Silver Linings Playbook, something which caught him off guard:

“There’s a scene where Bradley Cooper’s character is struggling and he disrupts his family in the middle of the night because he’s having an episode. I saw the stress it put on his family and the fact he was portrayed as a burden didn’t sit well with me at all. I had to switch it off.

“There was stuff I was going through, changes in my job, my grandad passing away and coming out of a very long term relationship but it all manifested in me not wanting to watch a film. I was lucky that I had a clear sign, because sometimes it’s hard to know where the line is between a bad day and knowing something is definitely wrong. I realised I had nothing to lose in reaching out to CALM.”

Richie used our webchat service at 10pm that evening, a chat that opened up a door to support from professionals and people close to him, but he knows it’s not always easy to talk about your feelings and that’s why he’s talking to us now. He wants you to know that it really wasn’t as scary as he thought:

“Think of it as MSN but a lot more useful. If you’re worried you’ll be judged talking about your mental health to friends and family, then what better way to start that journey than with a faceless computer screen. You’re not even talking, you’re typing and it eases you into a new way of expressing yourself.

“It’s anonymous, it’s free and believe me when I say, it will then lead on to you being able to talk to people face to face. Charities like CALM literally save lives. There’s no way I can quantify their importance more than that.”

Reaching out for help can feel daunting, but it doesn’t have to. It doesn’t matter what’s on your mind, CALM’s free confidential helpline and webchat service are open every day from 5pm until midnight, so you don’t have to struggle on your own. Access our life-saving services here.