Mr Sunderland bravely speaks of his battle with depression and urges others to seek help

Current Mr Sunderland title holder Brad Hopper has spoken of his battle with depression in a bid to encourage others to face their own mental health issues.

The male model and fitness instructor hopes his story will prompt people keeping quiet about their problems to seek help from both their family and professionals.

Mr Sunderland Brad Hopper.

Mr Sunderland Brad Hopper.

Brad, 27, who was also a Mr England 2017 finalist, said: “It is a massive issue and just because you win this title or reach the final of that competition does not mean you are immune.

"I just hope others will read this and decide to talk through whatever may seem wrong.”

While he still suffers days when he feels low, Brad has learned how to manage his depression since it was first diagnosed in 2012 following a relationship breakdown.

Continually questioning what had happened and what he could have done differently, he became increasingly anxious, withdrawn and moody, only leaving home to go to work.

Brad, from Fatfield, Washington, said: “I used to suffer sweats and heart palpitations and start to feel as though people would be better off if I was not here.

“Thankfully, I had a strong support network and a family who were patient and only too willing to talk.

“I eventually went to the GP and to Washington Mind where I was put in touch with a professional counsellor who listened to me and gave me techniques to master.

“These included positive self talk where you talk to yourself and reaffirm all the positive things in your life rather than the negative.

“There is also progressive muscle relaxation where you learn how to clench your fists and gradually relax. You then adopt this next time you are feeling anxious. Exercise was also a real aid in coping and feeling in control of your body.”

Although the sessions ended in 2013, Brad admitted: “Depression is something you have to live with and I still have days now when I have to deal with it. You use the techniques you have learned to help.”

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Brad, who has raised money for a number of charities since becoming Mr Sunderland last year, added: “Mental health is talked about much more today and that is a good thing.

“But there is still this male thing that mental health is a stigma that should not be spoken about. I would say speaking about it is the best way forward.

“With me, I had my family. Others may find it is best to go straight to the GP or places like Mind and speak to people who do not know you and so do not judge you as much.

“It might also be your friends. Since I’ve talked about my mental health, people have spoken to me about their own because it can help if you are talking to someone who has gone through something similar to you.”

Brad, a fitness instructor and health and well being officer at the Washington Millennium Centre, also believes that people can emerge stronger after seeking help.

He said: “I am a naturally introverted person who used to get anxious talking to people in a crowd.

“I’ve gone from that to parading in front of hundreds of people on a catwalk,

“After facing up to anxiety, stress and depression, I feel I can challenge myself to face anything now.”

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