Mr Sunderland Brad Hopper has had to face criticism from internet trolls as his modelling career has flourished.
Brad, a former pupil at both St Joseph’s Primary School and St Robert of Newminster School, in Washington, who has spoken openly about his battle with depression, admitted: “Social media can be the root of all evil.
“I have had people criticise me on Facebook, Instagram and in person. They will say ‘how have you become a model? You are ugly’.
“While most people are fine, there are those who think that just because you can be in the Echo, on television or on the front page of a magazine that you must be big head.
“Modelling for me is a way of expressing myself. When I appear on the catwalk it is basically me acting and I am far more introverted in person.
“I express my inner most feelings through modelling.
“They do not realise the impact their remarks can have on people and again it is something you learn to deal with.”
Brad, whose roles since becoming Mr Sunderland have included becoming patron of Sunderland skin cancer support group MelanomaMe, feels more could be done in schools to educate pupils about mental health issues so that they are not as cruel on social media.
He said: “I am talking about at a basic level in primary school and then in greater detail at secondary school so there is an improved awareness of the issues and more understanding of what you or someone else may be going through.”
Among the people he credits with supporting him through his own problems are sisters Dominique Hopper, 32, and Carly Hopper, 29, and brother Callum Hopper, 26.
He said: “All my family have been helpful and patient and have been there for me when I needed them.”