Triple j ‘Breakfast’ hosts Ben Harvey and Liam Stapleton have made an emotional on-air speech about their mental health in honour of R U OK? Day, and in response to hateful messages they’ve received from some listeners since taking over from former hosts Matt Okine and Alex Dyson.
Speaking on air this morning, a clearly emotional Stapleton spoke about how the negative messages he and Harvey have received (both online and in person) have affected him directly.
“Taking after a colossal show like ‘Matt & Alex’, it’s tough. You don’t expect everyone to like it — we still don’t. We understand that,” he said.
“But it does get hard, there is sometimes a fresh can of hate that you’ve gotta open up every day, and it definitely wears you down.
“I think these days there’s a bit of a disconnect… I’ve experienced it myself with artists, with anyone who’s in the public eye in general — when people send things in, when people put things online, there’s no repercussions of people’s words, or at least they feel that way.
“I think there’s almost like a magic filter, but we see it. We see when people text into our workplace, we see things. We see all the posts, we see all the comments. And I can honestly say I’ve had nights where I’ve cried myself to sleep because of stuff like that.”
Stapleton went on to say that he has been “embarrassed” and “ashamed” by the hateful messages he and his co-host have received.
“I’ve had times when I’ve flown home back to Adelaide and just felt like a disappointment, a failure,” he said.
“Sometimes it’s pretty relentless as well, like I’ve had times throughout the last eight months where I’ve opened messages to my personal account, even people quite explicitly telling me to take my own life.
“And it knocks you around — especially as a young bloke, I’ve felt things in the last eight months that I’ve never felt before, like feeling properly worthless, honestly. For mornings, for days, for weeks sometimes, and it’s not just online; it’s happened in person before.
“I had an experience a few months back. I was 20 at the time, and I was walking around late at night after a gig and some guys kinda cornered me and were telling me how hopeless they thought I was and they thought we were, and that I’d never be Matt & Alex.
“I can honestly say, I’ve never felt lower than that point. I just felt absolutely pathetic, properly pathetic. I didn’t retaliate, you know? There was nothing really I could say. These people were people that love what I love — they listened to triple j — and it knocked me around for a long time.
“I’ve spoken about a lot of this with my friends, but not about this specifically, but for a while there I got a bit scared to go out, ’cause I thought I didn’t want people to judge me, I didn’t know what people would say to me. I kinda got scared, and it takes a lot to keep your chin up from that kind of stuff.
“I think sometimes you don’t even realise others’ struggle until they really open up and talk about it. We all do, we all have our points. The reason we love this job so much… we love people who love the music, who love triple j, the people who text in like this morning, and call in and make us laugh and smile, and that’s what it’s all about.”
In response, Harvey told his co-host, “We’ve been best of friends, and I’ve seen what it’s done to you, and to myself off-air, but yeah, just know that there’s a lot of people who do love you and what you do, myself included.
“You don’t sift through the Facebook messages like I do, through all the hateful ones. But through all the hateful ones there’s also a lot of loving ones, so yeah, a lot of people are here for ‘yah.”
In conclusion, Stapleton called for listeners to reach out to others “in the spirit of R U OK? Day”. “It really does give someone a voice who might need a voice,” he said.
Stapleton also told a brief story about the day he and Harvey learned that they got the job at triple j, calling it “undeniably the happiest moment of my life”. Watch video of the boys’ speech, below.
Earlier this year, Ben & Liam spoke with Music Feeds about “copping it” from triple j listeners, stating at the time that they remained optimistic for the future.
For more information about R U OK? Day, head to the R U OK? website.