ONE look at Mario Falcone’s Instagram page at the start of 2019 revealed streams of beaming photos with his baby boy.
But secretly, the former Towie star was battling “soul-destroying” loneliness as he adapted to being a stay-at-home dad.
The 32-year-old welcomed his son Parker, two, with fiancee Becky Miesner, 31, in November 2018 – bringing him everything he’d ever dreamed of.
But while he embraced his new family life, Instagram influencer Mario admits he also felt overwhelmingly alone when Becky returned to her job as a make-up artist and salon owner, after just four months of maternity leave.
Now he is joining a stream of other famous faces in backing The Sun’s Christmas Together campaign, which aims to support those experiencing loneliness and isolation this year.
Here he speaks out to raise awareness that feelings of isolation can affect anyone and how important it is to reach out to those around you.
‘As a man, you might not admit you’re lonely’
Mario, who ditched his former party boy lifestyle when he began dating Becky in 2016, says he knows how lucky he was to have one-on-one time with his son – something many dads don’t get.
But he says the feelings of isolation he experienced came without warning, and left him feeling unable to open up to his loved ones.
“As a man, you might not admit you’re lonely. No one likes to show signs of struggle, especially as a parent,” he says.
“There are so many judgmental parents out there and a lot of parent police on Instagram – it’s like you’re in competition with everybody.
“People are too scared to admit they’re finding things hard.
“I want to reiterate it was amazing getting that time with Parker, but it was soul-destroying.”
‘You don’t see a group of lads together having coffees’
The star, whose sister Giovanna Fletcher won I’m A Celebrity earlier this month, says he initially bottled his feelings up and didn’t admit to feeling lonely – not even to his fiancee.
“I didn’t want to moan to Becky about it when she got home,” Mario admits.
“She was tired from work, I was tired from being daddy all day, so even in those moments I still felt alone. I didn’t want to make her feel bad.”
He says while his partner would often take Parker with her to meet friends on her own days off, he would usually spend his time with his son alone at home – not feeling he could call on his friends.
“When Becky had her days off and I could go to work, she could go and meet her girl friends who had kids, but you don’t see a group of lads together having coffees with their kids,” he explains.
“I was at home all day on my own with no one else around and there were no other dads to do things with.
“It was the most soul-destroying, lonely thing ever.”
‘I’ve realised my mates felt the same’
The Sun’s Christmas Together campaign
THIS Christmas we are teaming up with the Together Campaign, a coalition of community groups and organisations, and Royal Voluntary Service to combat loneliness.
And we want to recruit an army of volunteers to support those feeling cut off, anxious and isolated, this Christmas.
Could YOU reach out to someone who might be struggling and alone?
It might be someone you know in your own life or community who needs support.
Or we can connect you with someone in need through the NHS Volunteer responder programme run by the NHS, Royal Voluntary Service and the GoodSAM app.
Could you give up half an hour to make a call and chat with someone feeling isolated? Or could you volunteer to deliver essential shopping or festive treats?
Go to nhsvolunteerresponders.org.uk/christmastogether to sign up as a volunteer.
You will then receive an email taking you through the sign up process and be asked to download the responder app which will match you to those in need in your area.
Don’t worry if you don’t get a job straight away, because jobs are matched according to the need local to you. Being ready to help is what really matters.
Mario has been open about his battles with his mental health in the past, having been left feeling suicidal when he was targeted by cruel trolls during his time on Towie.
“At the time I was on Towie, I was very, very young and I was being an idiot on the show – that goes without saying. And with that came a lot of hate on social media,” he told us previously.
But unbeknown to viewers, he was suffering with anxiety and depression and the torrent of criticism he received pushed him over the edge – with him attempting suicide in a hotel room five years ago.
Days afterwards, he told his mother what he had tried to do and spoke to her for the very first time about his mental health problems.
Mario now says opening up about how he was feeling last year, as a stay-at-home dad, has helped him cope with loneliness – and made him realise he’s far from alone.
He’s particularly keen to ensure there’s an open discussion about mental health between male friends too.
“From having the conversation with my mates since, I’ve realised they felt the same,” he says.
‘Now I know I’ll reach out to the lads’
As he and Becky now plan to start trying for baby number two in the near future, the reality star says he’s determined to be more open about how he’s feeling.
“Now with baby number two I know I’ll reach out to the lads”, he says.
“Everyone can have a s*** day. After sharing that feeling you always feel better.
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“I know if the loneliness was to happen again, it’s so easy to call someone.
“Sometimes it just needs you to pick up the phone rather than waiting to fill your empty void.
“Even if you don’t want to have the vulnerability of telling someone you’re lonely. It’s about giving yourself motivation to reach out.”
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