Joe Wicks addresses childhood mental health

Joe Wicks
Joe Wicks Image credit:

Where most of us were twiddling our thumbs through lockdown the Body Coach, also known as Joe Wicks, was busy replying to thousands of fans struggling with their mental health.

It’s a subject Wicks can relate to, his mum developed an eating disorder and severe OCD, and his father had a drug addiction which impacted Joe when he was growing up.

In the new BBC documentary Joe Wicks: Facing My Childhood, produced by Louis Theroux, the body coach traces his family routes to understand how his parents’ wellbeing affected him as a child.

He also speaks to the team at Our Time, a UK charity supporting children of parents with a mental illness.

In an emotional interview with Radio Times Wicks said: “After [YouTube series] PE with Joe ended, I realised I hadn’t just helped people’s physical health, but their mental health, too. I wanted to keep that conversation going.

“As a young kid, I didn’t realise my parents had mental health issues. I just thought my dad was a drug addict and my mum loved cleaning. But I was aware I had this ability to share my story, and that hopefully it would inspire people.”

He went on to say his passion for fitness started at a young age when he would exercise to control his stress levels.

Wicks said: “If I hadn’t exercised, I would have been a nightmare. No one would have been able to control me. PE was the one subject I looked forward to because it helped me focus.”

The documentary sees Wicks exploring the history of mental health in the family, we learn he has had little therapy to address his own issues apart from the occasional counselling sessions he attended when he was a youngster.

He said: “Millions of parents are experiencing mental health issues, particularly after lockdown. They’re bottling it up and trying to be brave and happy, but inside they’re probably crumbling. When the parents pull away, the children become withdrawn.”

Despite the lack of support Wicks had as a child he has a passion for struggling others struggling with their mental health, something which can across through lockdown when he was replying to thousands of messages on a daily basis.

“Helping people is addictive. When I open my phone and go on Instagram, I’m not just going to see a cat video. I’m going to see a DM [direct message] from someone who’s in need. That feeling of helping someone is energising, but it also drains me. It’s overwhelming to take it all on.”

Joe Wicks: Facing My Childhood is on BBC One, Monday May 16 at 9pm and available afterwards on BBC iPlayer.