Roman Kemp: Our Silent Emergency: when is the radio host’s male mental health and suicide documentary on TV?

Kemp worked on the BBC documentary after the sudden death of his friend and producer Joe Lyons in 2020

Tuesday, 16th March 2021, 3:07 pm
Roman Kemp, 28, speaks openly about his own struggles and the death of his close friend, Joe Lyons (Picture: BBC/TwoFour

Radio presenter Roman Kemp will explore the male suicide epidemic across the UK, in a BBC Three documentary that airs tonight (16 March).

Roman Kemp: Our Silent Emergency will see Roman explore why increasing numbers of men are taking their own lives, and the preventative action we should be taking.

Here is everything you need to know about the documentary.

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When will ‘Roman Kemp: Our Silent Emergency’ be screened?

‘Roman Kemp: Our Silent Emergency’ will be aired on BBC One at 9pm on Tuesday 16 March.

It is also now available to watch as part of the BBC Three category on BBC iPlayer.

What is Roman Kemp: Our Silent Emergency about?

The “deeply personal and candid” documentary explores why an increasing number of young men are taking their own lives in the UK, and what can be done to encourage them to seek help.

Kemp said he had thought about making the documentary for around six years, but the decision was reached when he was affected personally by the death of his friend and radio producer Joe Lyons, who died suddenly in August 2020 at the age of 31.

In the documentary, Kemp also speaks openly about his own mental health and experience of depression and shares the stories of other young men.

He visits the families and friends of young men who have taken their own life, to understand the trauma, hurt and confusion caused when a loved one dies from suicide.

Prior to the documentary being shown, he told the BBC that speaking out about his feelings was "most personal thing I've ever done.”

He said: “I've been on TV shows where I've had a camera in my face 24 hours a day for four weeks and this is still the most personal thing I’ve ever done.

"This has gone inside my mind and inside the [minds] of a lot of young men around the country."

It also includes input from experts, community groups and mental health professionals, discussing what can be done to help men to speak out and seek help, and what preventative action can be taken.

Why is male suicide considered a mental health epidemic in the UK?

Suicide rates in England and Wales remain at a 20-year high. In 2019, three-quarters of those who took their own lives in England and Wales - a total of 4,303 - were men.

This was the highest figure since 1981 and puts the rate of male suicides at 16.9 deaths per 100,000.

This follows 6,507 deaths by suicide (a rate of 11.2 deaths per 100,000 people) in 2018. Again, men accounted for three-quarters of the total.

The highest rate in 2018 was observed in Northern Ireland at nearly 19 deaths per 100,000, followed by Scotland at 16.1 deaths per 100,000.

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has not yet published the breakdown of deaths in the UK in 2020.

What did Roman Kemp say about these statistics?

Kemp said he felt embarrassed about addressing his own mental health on television, but the statistics have urged him to speak out, as "Now that stigma has to go."

He added: "It's something I've been very much so personally affected by and I believe the time has gone now where you can shy away from it.

"Not enough is being done, to not have the support in place for kids, in my opinion, is disgraceful. There's not enough budget there. There's not enough onus put on it.

"The government will jump on it when it's a mental health week but other than that [they] don't want to know about it and it's not that important."

In a response to Kemp’s comments, the Minister for Mental Health, Nadine Dorries, said: "I am absolutely committed to supporting good mental health and wellbeing for all and commend Roman for coming forward to talk about his experiences.

"It is often very challenging for men to talk about their experiences and seek support. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness - I encourage anyone to speak to people they trust, their GP or self-refer through the NHS."

Ms Dorries also said the government will have provided an additional £2.3 billion a year by 2023/24 for mental health services - along with £500 million announced in the recent Spending Review and £79 million to boost mental health support for children and young people.

University of Glasgow Professor Rory O'Connor, who's been conducting research into suicide for 25 years, told the BBC documentary: "One of the things we know for certain about suicide is that it's never caused by a single factor.

"So if we're trying to understand the fact that three-quarters of all suicides in the UK are by men then we need to understand there are a whole range of factors - something's impacting on your sense of masculinity or it could be social inequality.

“And men are less likely to seek help and that all comes together into this sense of entrapment [where] suicidal thoughts are more likely."

What has Kemp said about his own mental health?

In an interview with the BBC as he launched the documentary, Kemp said that producing it allowed him to talk about his own struggles and better understand why men contemplate suicide.

He said: "I used this film as my own therapy. I can't even remember it. I just remember crying a lot. It was really hard. It's still hard now."

Roman said he'd previously been warned not to be too upfront about mental health issues, in case it might affect his career.

"I called up my team and I was just like, 'now I have to talk about it’.

"To be totally honest with you I'd had chats with my team that had said to me, 'don't open up that much, you're a young guy, are you sure you want to get into it yet?'

"If there's young guys out there that see me talking about my own mental health and it somehow helps them then I've won."

Kemp said of losing his close friend, Joe Lyons: "The anger [of losing Joe] now is gone. The confusion will always be there, the sadness will always be there.

"This is so personal. I just want to do my friend justice, that's it."