Whether you’re a fan of his music or not, Professor Green’s very personal BBC Three documentary, Suicide And Me is a must-watch for everyone out there.
Suicide accounts for almost 5,000 male deaths a year, that’s around four times that of suicide in women, and it's the biggest killer of men aged 20 to 45 in Britain. I don’t know about you, but this is the first time I have ever heard those numbers, and they’re incredibly sad and shocking.
As part of BBC Three’s Breaking The Mould season, which tackles issues of gender, Stephen Manderson, best-known as rapper Professor Green, uses the personal tragedy in his life to explore the rather taboo issue of male suicide.
Seven years ago, when Stephen was 24, his father took his own life aged 43, and this documentary marks the first time he has ever confronted why his father was driven to the extreme of suicide. He hopes that by finding some answers he will be able to move on to a new and happier chapter in his life and maybe even find some closure.
At the start of the documentary, Stephen explains how when he was told that his father had hung himself, he first felt angry, then upset and then confused, unable to understand why his father had taken his own life.
In the opening 10 minutes of the documentary I found myself welling up as Stephen broke down whilst looking at photographs of him and his father with Nanny Pat, his mother’s mother who brought him up. That on-screen moment marks the first time ever, that Stephen has spoken to a family member about his father’s suicide.
Throughout the documentary Stephen re-vists the council estate in Hackney where he grew up, meets up with one of his father’s closest friends Ken and meets his father’s sister Debbie, in the place where they grew up, and learns some even more tragic news about his father’s family.
As well as exploring his own tragic story, Stephen meets with others to try and understand a little bit more why so many men commit suicide. In a very moving exchange early on in the documentary, he meets with amateur Rugby coach Ben, who has twice tried to kill himself, and like Stephen, he too lost his father to suicide.
He also visits; The Maytree which is a wonderful retreat for people who are feeling suicidal, Glasgow University where he speaks to Professor Rory O’Connor who leads the Suicidal Behaviour Research Laboratory and Giancarlo Galgliane, who sadly lost his brother Lanfranco to suicide in 2012.
At the end of the documentary, Stephen describes the process as “really bloody hard”, but has no doubts that making the film has been beneficial to the healing process.
"If any good can come out of me sharing my experience, it’s that I hope it encourages more men to be vocal and not keep their feelings bottled up. I hope it ends some of the stigma that still exists around suicide. But for us to make any real progress, it’s for people to first and foremost admit what big a problem it is."
Last week I attended a special screening in East London where most of the contributors to the film, including Professor Green, took part in a very moving and open discussion about mental health hosted by BBC Radio 1’s Gemma Cairney. On more than one occasion, Stephen got very emotional, not surprising considering the nature of the film. He also told us that he still hasn’t been able to watch the film all the way through to the end:
"I find it very difficult to watch which is why I wasn’t sat in the screening. I kind of feel like I’ve done my part of it now, and it’s for everyone else to see and to digest. My hope is that it does help other people so they don’t have to suffer what so many people have, because the pain is indescribable. I’m proud of having got through it."
After watching the documentary I had such a new-found respect for Professor Green for making the film. Suicide And Me was raw, emotional and very powerful. It told a story that I can only begin to imagine was very difficult to tell, but was done so beautifully and sensitively.
This isn’t a BBC Three series that cashes in on Professor Green's fame and explores his celebrity lifestyle, it’s a very real story told by someone who just so happens to be in the public eye, and I have to congratulate and admire Stephen for being so open and honest throughout the film, and using his celebrity to make something that I’m sure will be relatable for very many people out there.
Whilst it might have been difficult to make, I think it’s very important that it was, and I really hope that Suicide And Me is only the start of many more open discussions about male suicide that will hopefully reduce the shocking statistics that almost 5,000 men a year lose their life to male suicide.
If you need help or support when it comes to suicide, then please call the CALM helpline on 0808 802 5858 if you’re in London, or 0800 58 58 58 if you’re outside London. Lines are open between 5pm and midnight, 7 days a week. Or you can visit their website here.