Ex-athlete Paul Marlow finds new mission with clothing brand and online platform rooted in mental health

The Never Alone vision is to help regular folks understand that it's okay to feel anxiety and it's okay to be depressed at times

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      "Tall Paul", as Paul Marlow sometimes calls himself, seemed to have it all in his early 20s.

      At 6’7”, he played basketball and baseball at Louisiana State University in Shreveport and was even drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays.

      In a phone interview with the Straight, Marlow said that he didn’t have trouble attracting female attention and even did some modelling for a while.

      But in 2018, a decade after his university career ended, the Vancouver entrepreneur was afflicted with serious depression. It came after a difficult breakup with a girlfriend and his father being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and then cancer, which claimed his life the same year.

      “It affected me greatly once he passed away,” Marlow revealed. “I decided to open up about what was going on on my social media and to my family and friends. And with people reaching out to me saying ‘thank you for saying these things’ and ‘thank you for being honest and open,’ I realized there was an area that wasn’t being hit.”

      It gave birth to the Never Alone project, which he has described as the “first mental health brand”. It’s a platform that allows people to share their struggles and observations about mental health, combined with a clothing line offering hoodies and caps celebrating the value of forging connections.

      “The Never Alone vision is to help the regular person just understand that it is okay to feel anxiety; it’s okay to be depressed at times,” Marlow says.

      The blog posts on Weareneveralone.co include tips on everything from getting motivated in the gym to how to write entries in a diary. There’s also advice on what to say when someone dies.

      Marlow said that when he was in the throes of depression, he visited other online sources, including government sites, that had many good quotes and stories.

      “But I didn’t find a lot of actionable content that could help my day-to-day life long-term,” he added.

      He's trying to address that.

      He also feels that many mental-health sites are a “little safe”, whereas he wants to push the boundaries of public discourse.

      As an example, he wrote one post revealing how he tried MDMA therapy. He took the psychedelic treatment in his 10th session—a six-hour experience that helped him understand why his childhood led him not to accept himself for who he is.

      Marlow said that prior to this, he never realized how fearful he was of not living up to others’ standards. That would occur even when he was standing in line, going to a restaurant, or spending time with friends and family members.

      “I was worried of being judged in a situation where no one would judge me,” he disclosed.

      Marlow noted on his blog that he took MDMA in the presence of an “underground psychedelic therapist” with extensive background in this area.

      And he said that prior to this experience he never would have such an open conversation with anyone, let alone a reporter.

      “Until all this happened, I was quite a different person,” Marlow declared.

      He’s also eager for his platform to be a home for those who feel marginalized by mainstream society.

      In the “Never Alone Stories” section of the blog, Toronto-based mental-health advocate Asante Haughton wrote a piece called “Dear White People…Why Is Your Mental Health So White?”

      “What you do with your answer might save me,” Haughton declares at the end of the post. “It might save us all.”

      In another post, a gender-fluid artist named Em shared her experience as a sex worker.

      “I never felt in danger, I did have to navigate toxic masculinity and misogynist behaviours,” Em writes. “I also had, and facilitated, extremely caring and even healing sexual experiences. I made enough money to buoy my finances, pay for laser eye surgery in cash, and fund a really beautiful trip with my partner for his birthday.”

      Marlow said that he understands how privileged he is as a tall, white male. And to him, “it sucks” that people who look like him are the ones doing the most harm in the world.

      “I don’t want to take over from people’s voices,” Marlow emphasized. “I want to bring them alongside me as I grow. Then it’s a win-win. I can use my privilege as a good thing.”