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Interview with Pete Wallroth

Speaker Pete Wallroth is passionate about supporting men and women dealing with illness and loss. He helps raise awareness for causes such as cancer during pregnancy and men’s/fathers mental health. Read more about him and his experiences in this interview.

What are your biggest goals currently?

Learning to be a new dad again, following the recent birth of our son Flynn. After the experiences that surrounded the birth of my first son Merlin and then losing my wife shortly after, my memory and experience of being a dad to him and his sister Martha is somewhat blurred and was a quite isolating experience at the time as a widower.

My partner and I recently had a little boy and I find that I am having a completely different parenting experience again in a very positive way…because this time I am not doing it all on my own. Its providing me with a reflection too on how I did it last time.

 

In a professional sense, education has become the biggest goal alongside the support we’re offering to women day to day. Whether its providing educational sessions to students, existing health professionals or audiences from a whole range of backgrounds, every session I feel we are reaching someone new, or changing a mindset which will one day ultimately lead to one of the mums we support have a completely different, better maternity experience.

 

What unique men’s mental health issues have you encountered?

Fear of Birth! This is something that is traditionally associated with women (understandably so) as they are the ones giving birth, but my work and personal experiences have opened my eyes to the reality that men too can have or experience a fear of birth, whether it be through loss of a partner in a maternity setting, through losing a baby with their partner, or seeing their partner in distress during labour and/or requiring an emergency intervention. It is a real thing for men and needs to be acknowledged accordingly, just like post-natal depression in men needs to be too.

 

What do you gain personally from being a public speaker?

I would say the single biggest benefit I gain is the knowledge that someone may now change the way they practice in their health role because of a point I have made or an example I have given them in a speech. In an era in health where so much statistical information is relied upon and anecdotes are easily dismissed as isolated incidents, I feel I have managed to carve out a place to make the point that anecdotal experiences should be seen as evidence when they become trends and this is why health professionals are now sitting up and listening to what we’re saying as a charity. Patient advocacy is increasingly placing pressure on the way services are shaped and I feel privileged to play my part in that, both from my personal experiences but also from those whose lives I am involved with through the charity.

Through talking about my experiences and adapting talks to differing audiences I have actually drawn out things in myself that I had not previously acknowledged, struggles that I have had or continue to have and in the process found ways of self-help both for my own trauma and then that of others through sharing.

 

What are some unique experiences you’ve had from running your charity?

I never saw myself as a public speaker and was always incredibly nervous when I was required to speak in the early days of the charity (and I am still nervous now) but I have had opportunities to speak at some of the biggest events on the UK and abroad too and over time have come to embrace the opportunity it provides to reach people and change mindsets.

If you had told me six years ago, when I had just lost my wife, that one of the best forms of help and support that I will to find through the darkest days was actually going to be the embracing of and talking about the loss I’ve experienced and supporting others going through similar then I would have run away scared. But it has been exactly that experience which has been so cathartic. Embracing the experiences of others and supporting them through what took my wife from my children and I has helped immensely.

I would liken it to having a demon. If you run away it can creep up and surprise you when your guard is down. But I keep my demon (loss/cancer) in sight so I know what it’s doing. Sure, sometimes that can wear me down a bit and leave me shattered but I know where it is all the time and I think that way of thinking feels unique for me

 

What habits do you have which help keep you motivated?

I’m a keen runner both for fitness benefit but also mental health. I find it helps clear my mind and helps gain focus which is essential when dealing with such traumatic situations on a day to day basis. I have a kind of fitness structure across the week because I find routine helps, albeit not rigidly so, to allow for appointments, travelling etc and also to balance around family. Most mornings in the week I will either run or box/kickbox, which is something I’ve enjoyed over the last twelve months, and then one day at the weekend I will take part in some kind of running event, alongside other members of my running club. There’s a great community within running where ability is completely irrelevant and its simply about common love of being out

 

Describe yourself in 3 words.

Compassionate, Determined, Excited