Humphrey’s period of bad mental health lasted several years. “This was 20, 21 years ago. Where do you go, as a guy, then? I ended up ringing a number in the back of a newspaper; there was an advert, ‘Do you think you have mental health problems? Ring this number.’ It was the first time I’ve ever talked to somebody, to say I think I’m cracking up, and this kind voice told me it was normal. I was so f—ing low. About as low as you can possibly go.”
A decade earlier, his grandmother had taken her own life – something that he has said “created a weird relationship with suicide for me.” At one point he explored the idea of hiring a bodyguard to make sure he didn’t do anything silly. Eventually, thanks to therapy and other support – including that of Harriet, then his girlfriend, he improved. But he still has flare-ups.
“That’s an important message for me. Things are not fixed. Like that [World Class Basics] thing, that definitely is the biggest source of my mental health challenges now, this sense of criticism from people who don’t even understand what you’re trying to do. They just revel in it,” he says.
Some football fans have always given him a hard time, as they do almost all presenters who try to impress some personality on the job (Gary Lineker possibly gets away with more, thanks to his past as a player). “I try not to take it to heart,” Humphrey says of the abuse.
He cannot see himself doing a Lineker and “presenting football forever”, it seems. “I’ll be doing the Champions League final again in a few weeks. And I still love that job, for sure. But I’m still quite a restless soul. I’ve done 10 years of live football now, and maybe I’m starting to wonder what else is out there.”
A few weeks ago, Humphrey and Hughes played the 2,000-seater London Palladium, the biggest of the half a dozen venues they’ll play across the country this summer. In some ways it was like a two-hour, live LinkedIn post (inspirational quotes on PowerPoint slides featured heavily, along with interviews with remarkable people and a lengthy Q&A), in others like a hip evangelical church service.
But once you park your cynicism and accept that Humphrey and Hughes are simply nice, normal blokes offering nice, normal life wisdom and wellbeing advice to people who are perhaps more likely to take it on board if it’s given in this format – by heroic athletes and business people, then packaged by two talented communicators, as the presenters are – you can understand why Humphrey is so exasperated by his critics.
Undeterred, he and Hughes are now establishing The High Performance Foundation to get the message into schools. “My dream is that it’s on the national curriculum, and every kid in every class in the country does an hour of High Performance every week. We’ve already got three years’ worth of content.”
A portion of the live show is simply Humphrey flashing up abusive tweets he’s received – and still receives – from keyboard warriors who take against his well-meaning side. They are, admittedly, quite brutal, especially given his mother, wife and kids were in the audience at the Palladium. But today he takes out his phone to show me the specific inbox for the High Performance Podcast. It’s full of people thanking him and Hughes for changing their lives.
A few months ago, he says, a message landed from a listener who told them he had recently climbed into his car to contemplate taking his life. At that moment, his phone connected via Bluetooth to the car’s speakers and started playing an episode of the podcast. It made him stop, listen and think. Eventually, he wrote, he decided to live another day and went to pick up his children from school instead.
“That is the kind of thing that gives you goosebumps, but it adds to the sense of responsibility,” Humphrey says. “It’s what we need to focus on: I never want it to be something that makes people feel inferior.”
The High Performance Podcast Live will continue to tour until July 2
If you need advice and support with mental health, Samaritans is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on 116 123, or you can email [email protected]