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Bear Strong: Strongman Chris McNaghten on mental health, weightlifting and community

We caught up with Chris “Big Bear” McNaghten ahead of his mental health and wellness event next month! Keep reading to find out more about his background, his struggles with mental health, and why you should attend one of his talks!

Tell us a bit about yourself?

I'm from Larne just outside Belfast. I came out 3 years ago, and at 28 it was obviously hidden for a long time so was quite a shock for many people. In my sport I was lucky enough to be accepted by many. It took me quite a while to adapt and get used to it, but it’s been a great journey to be honest, to be part of an amazing community, and to this day I’m still learning new things about the community and myself.

What motivated you to take up weightlifting and how has taking up this sport influenced your life?

I started strongman at 19. I was always a huge fan of strongman, and just thought one day to hell with it, I'm going to enter a competition and see how I get on. I did okay and since then it has been a huge part of my life. Like many athletes, sport becomes a part of who you are, how you view yourself and how others view you.

You have spoken in the past about your battle with depression. What advice would you have for anyone out there who is currently struggling with mental health issues?

I was in a very dark place more than once, but I fought through. Sometimes I was stronger than others but I did try to take my own life many years ago. Luckily for me it wasn’t successful. I have grown into such an amazing, exciting life, a life that wasn't believable back then. For someone who is currently struggling, you will be thinking the same way I was, that there is no hope, no future, because that is what the illness does, but I can assure you now that happiness is possible, and it's there for everyone.

On Friday February 7th you are hosting a mental health event in Outhouse. Who could benefit from attending this event and what can they expect on the night?

Everyone. None of us will go through life without coming in contact with depression or mental illness, either in ourselves or seeing it in others. My talks have helped so many people over the years. It could be a huge help to you or a loved one.

If people want to get in touch where can they find you?

My website www.bearstrong.co.uk or check out my instagram at bearstrongmcnaghten, facebook bear strong and, of course, our youtube, bear strong!