York alumnus Samir Mourani (BA ’14) has embarked on a quest to help men worldwide become more open to discussing a subject that many have difficulty talking about: their mental health.
After graduating from York University, Samir landed a successful government position, got married, enjoyed free time during the weekends and traveled the world. However, when daily routines and distractions were paused during the 2020 global pandemic, Samir found that he, along with other men he spoke to, started to struggle mentally.
“Many of the men I spoke to started facing their demons and realized that they were unhappy,” says Samir. “A lot of them found out that they were in unhappy relationships and were unhappy physically and emotionally.”
Upon this realization, Samir came up with the idea to start having deeper conversations regarding mental health with other men that may be facing the same issues. In August 2022, Samir launched his first-ever podcast, Gent’s Talk, where he invites celebrities and influencers to have deep conversations beyond the periphery, discussing important issues that men face that they may be uncomfortable talking about. Guests at Gent's Talk have included: comedian, Russell Peters, singer/songwriter, James Blunt and professional soccer player for Toronto FC, Jonathan Osorio. Discussions on the podcast are open and unscripted where guests discuss their careers and successes, while also delving into topics such as: depression, self-doubt, personal tragedy and trauma.
“The goal is to pull back the curtain and engage in meaningful discussions with our guests to talk not only about their accomplishments, but also how they overcame challenges and hurdles along the way,” says Samir. “There’s an ongoing stigma amongst men when it comes to opening up about their mental health, so this podcast seeks to change the narrative by de-stigmatizing those conversations.”
A self-described "podcast junkie", Samir started Gent's Talk as a hobby. While listening to other podcasts and interviews, he noticed that many conversations strayed away from personal issues that guests may have been facing.
"I was watching an interview with a popular celebrity, where the interviewer asked the guest about how he had handled the pandemic and the guest shared that he had actually struggled mentally, because he could not see his son during the pandemic," says Samir. "Instead of asking follow-up questions about the guest's mental health, the interviewer moved on to something else."
It was this observation that inspired Samir to shed light on personal challenges that his guests face on his podcast, knowing that these stories may resonate with the audience.
Despite being relatively new to the world of podcasting, Samir recalls key life-learning opportunities he experienced as a student at York that helped craft his approach as an interviewer.
“York really opened my eyes to see how many different people there are in the world. There are so many students from so many places,” says Samir. “When I was a student taking political science classes at York, I would participate in class debates and I was able to observe a number of important conversations that helped me develop the foundation of how to have authentic conversations with others, regardless of whether or not you agree with them.”
Samir hopes that the conversations he has in the podcast positively influence other men to openly discuss their mental health.
“If it means one less man takes his life or one less man loses a relationship because they are equipped with the right tools to have those hard conversations, then that’s all I could ask for.”
You can find new episodes of the Gent's Talk podcast every Monday, everywhere podcasts are streamed and on the Gent's Talk YouTube channel.
Samir is the editor of Gent's Post, a premier men's lifestyle publication that covers men's fashion, grooming, travel, entertainment and more. Samir is also a mental wellness speaker and advocate.
Recently, Samir hosted a session of Mid-Career Conversations, a virtual series where alumni share their stories and experiences with other mid-career professionals. In his session, Samir addresses happiness in the workplace and following your passion. Watch a recording of the session, The Golden Handcuffs: Happiness vs. the 9-5.