Former Nescot student Joe Wicks has been hailed a ‘national treasure’ after filming a BBC documentary that explored addiction and mental health.
The nation’s favourite PE teacher, who studied Sport at Nescot as a teenager, explored his parents’ difficulties and how they shaped his life in a moving hour-long programme.
Joe spoke about his mother’s mental health problems and time in rehab for obsessive compulsive disorder, as well as his father’s addiction to heroin.
He talked about growing up on an Epsom council estate, and how he blamed himself for his father’s drug use. He used to run to school, because it was the ‘best way of letting go of those feelings’.
“My mum and dad were up and down, up and down my entire life,” Joe said in the programme. “I worry about what effect parents’ mental health is having on kids.”
During the documentary Joe visited Our Time, a charity which supports young people who have a parent or guardian with a mental illness and aims to help them to understand they are not to blame.
Joe has previously spoken to Nescot about his memories of attending the college, which he credited with ‘inspiring’ him and changing his outlook.
It was his first opportunity to study exercise and fitness in-depth, and it was the first time he’d learnt about nutrition, and sports as a business.
“I’ve got great memories of Nescot – I loved my time there,” he said. “The college helped me to grow and mature, and to be more independent as a learner. I had to show up, and be accountable.
“It definitely made me enjoy learning more, because I was doing practical lessons and studying a subject I really loved. I still remember doing case studies about businesses, and projects on nutrition.”
Joe told Nescot that he hopes his success can show students at the college that they are not necessarily bound by the circumstances they have been born into.
“Wherever you’ve come from, you can go on to change your life, and other people’s lives, and be positive,” he said. “Self-belief is really important.”
Nescot works hard to support students with their mental health, with a professional team offering specialist support with issues from finance to professional counselling. You can read more here.
For Mental Health Week the college organised a calendar of events including talks from Patrick Foster, who spoke about addiction and mental health, and Bobby Copping, who spoke about resilience.
Joe, who is now 36, is best known for PE With Joe, his free daily YouTube workouts for children during lockdown. The videos ended up reaching 100 million people globally, and he donated his entire earnings to NHS Charities Together.
Joe Wicks: Facing my Childhood is on BBC iPlayer now. You can read more of Joe’s interview with Nescot on our website here. For help in a mental health crisis please click here.