Taking over the triple j breakfast slot from the departing team of Matt Okine and Alex Dyson was always going to be a tough ask for the newest recruits Ben Harvey and Liam Stapleton, and it’s no secret that the duo have received their fair share of very vocal criticism from a portion of the triple j audience since they took over late last year.
Now, the duo have delivered an incredibly emotional on-air speech this morning about just how much of an impact those critics have had on the pair’s mental health, Music Feeds reports, in an effort to draw attention to mental health awareness campaign R U OK? Day.
“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,” Liam began on this morning’s show. “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.”
I’ve never felt lower than that point. I just felt absolutely pathetic, properly pathetic
“I’ve had times when I’ve flown home back to Adelaide and just felt like a disappointment, a failure,” Stapleton continues, adding that he’s felt “ashamed” by the hatred levelled at he and his co-host, both online and in person.
“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.
some guys kinda cornered me and were telling me how hopeless they thought I was
“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.
Ben and Liam open up about the hate and abuse they receive every day on this job
“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.”
One of Ben and Liam’s highlights from their time in the breakfast slot
Ben Harvey also weighed in, responding to his clearly very emotional co-host with a message of support, pointing out that plenty of people do appreciate what the pair are doing. While the recent ratings survey sees them lagging behind their predecessors, they’re still managing gains in some important territories.
“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 ya.”
In the end, Stapleton’s ultimate message was for listeners to embrace “the spirit of R U OK? Day” and check in on one another, adding that “it really does give someone a voice who might need a voice.”
Head to the R U OK? Day website for more information, and if you or somebody you care for needs help or information about depression, suicide, anxiety, or mental health issues, contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.