Former Big Brother winner Anthony Hutton, who also owns a hair salon in Darlington, has launched a campaign to encourage men to speak up about their mental health, following his own battle with depression.

The 41-year-old introduced his ‘Never throw in the towel’ campaign in a presentation at Newton Aycliffe-based manufacturing firm BTS Facades and Fabrications, where employees later had an opportunity to chat to him while enjoying a haircut.

Anthony, who won reality show Big Brother in 2005, experienced severe depression following his stardom, however found stability after rekindling his love for hairdressing, where he now encourages his customers to have open conversations about their feelings.

The mental health advocate said his own recovery from depression and listening to others at his barbering job influenced his passion for encouraging others to speak up.

He said: “I’ve experienced mental health issues myself, and I talk to men for a living, I have had men open to me in the barber’s chair and having experienced all of that I got to a point where I actively wanted to try to fight against this ongoing issue.

“It ties in perfectly with being a barber; it’s the one time where men get the opportunity to have a conversation, no mobile phone or distractions, just a chance to open up.

“My mission is to build a culture that encourages men to talk – it’s still something we all struggle to do.

“As men, I think we think talking isn’t ‘manly’, but one of the main messages I would like to enphasise is there’s strength in talking, it’s not a weakness.”

His first presentation was held in front of BTS’ workforce of 42 men, and four women. The workshop found that all of the women in the room admitted to opening up to friends about their feelings, in comparison to just one of the men.

Philip Atkinson, managing director of BTS, said he was astonished at the results, and wants to educate his team on the importance of being there for one and another.

“I thought Anthony was brilliant, he’s got a lovely calm voice, everyone was listening intently.

“To round it off for me, when we finished the presentation, we walked through the factory and there were people coming over to him and shaking his hand – to me, that was the best moment, as people appreciated why we’ve done this.

“Admittedly, I get my hair cut by Anthony, and after each trim I walk out feeling a little lighter – it’s like a mini therapy session.”