Over the past 15 years, Matt Chisholm has become one of the country’s most beloved journalists and TV hosts, moving from current affairs in the 1News newsroom to fronting reality mega-hits like Survivor and Celebrity Treasure Island.
Yet in recent years, Chisholm has started to open up about the mental health struggles he has had behind the scenes, documenting his own journey in his book Imposter, and his documentary, Man Enough.
Speaking on the NZ Herald podcast Straight Up, hosted by Niva Retimanu and Beatrice Faumuina, Chisholm said he never anticipated he would become an advocate in this space, but said his decision to open up came in part due to the death of fellow 1News journalist, Greg Boyed.
Boyed, who was close friends with both Chisholm and Retimanu, though the latter two had not met until the podcast, died in 2018 after battling depression.
Retimanu said his death prompted her to be more honest about her own mental health journey, which Chisholm agreed with.
“I think about Greg a lot and I think about the responsibility that I now have, and you probably feel the same way, that we have a responsibility now to own a lot of this stuff and we don’t want his death to be in vain.
“You know, I made a living out of being a very open, happy sort of guy on the telly, but I was fibbing to people in a way because I was ‘Jack the lad’ on TV and then would go home and from time to time cry myself off to sleep or whatever it is.
“And so we have a responsibility in the public roles that we have to own this stuff and let others know that no one’s immune and everybody’s got stuff going on, and we always will.”
While he admits it can be difficult travelling the country away from his family and “regurgitating” his struggles all the time, Chisholm said he knows how helpful it can be for the people he talks to, and it is a better use of his platform than selling “Reebok shoes on Instagram”.
Growing up in Otago as the youngest of four boys, Chisholm said it was a very masculine environment that probably wasn’t the best environment for him.
“I embraced it. I got into it. I played my footy, I loved my farming, I did all those things. But I also was a bit of a sensitive guy and concealed that for a long time, and it wasn’t until I’d got a bit older and a bit longer on the tooth that I thought, actually, no, I don’t wanna drink booze three nights a week, and drive myself into the ground that way.”
Now, Chisholm said he “doesn’t have many heartbeats left”, so has reached a point in his life where he is choosing honesty regardless of the cost.
“[Honesty] has cost me work opportunities. It’s cost me the odd relationship. But this is what I think - you get to a stage in life, and you think, right, do I be open and honest about this? And I think, yes, I will, and that is because it’ll help more people. It is the right thing to do because even though it might cost me and it might set me back - and I’m learning that as I go - but it’ll help more people than it’ll negatively affect me.”
One example of that honesty came earlier this month, when Chisholm went public with the news he had been dropped from his hosting roles on Survivor and Celebrity Treasure Island. Taking to Instagram at the time, Chisholm wrote that he had been offered the chance to “control the narrative” and say he had chosen to step down for family reasons, but chose to reveal he had been let go instead.
Speaking to Straight Up, Chisholm said he enjoyed his time hosting those shows, but initially when fronting Survivor struggled with imposter syndrome and if he was good enough to front these shows, as well as pivoting to learning lines and being isolated from the contestants as he wasn’t allowed to mix with them.
“Initially hosting Survivor, I didn’t enjoy it, but I taught myself to enjoy it. I taught myself to think, you deserve to be here. You are good at this. Just look up at the sun beaming down across those trees and just tell myself, ‘this is an amazing opportunity’.”
On his axing, Chisholm said while he doesn’t want to get into the reasons why he left, he reiterated that he can be “too honest” when it comes to work situations.
The news was difficult for Chisholm and his family. He revealed he didn’t watch the most recent season as he found it “triggering”, but he did end up reading the comments after he announced he wouldn’t be returning, and said it left him “quite emotional”.
“Maybe I did bring a whole lot more to the table than I ever thought I did, you know? And people got the fact that I was present and cared and gave a lot of myself to it. That was quite nice to read that and understand that I did bring something to the table.”
Listen to the full podcast above for more from Matt on his early life and family now, working in news, and what he’s learned from living in a rural community