Stephen Manderson, aka rapper Professor Green, is a successful musician with a number one single and three hit albums to his name. He is happily married to former Made in Chelsea star Millie Mackintosh and sees kids as the next step in their relationship. On the face of it, life is pretty much perfect.
But not all is well in Stephen’s world. For the past seven years he’s been living under the shadow of a shocking event – the suicide of his dad Peter.
Stephen’s parents split up when he was a child and he was brought up by his Nanny Pat. Growing up he didn’t see his dad nearly as much as he would have liked and both he and his nan remember how eagerly he would watch the bus-stop outside their council flat hoping to see Peter get off.
After his dad remarried he and Stephen fell out of touch, but that didn’t make the news of his death any less devastating.
In BBC3 film Professor Green: Suicide and Me (getting a BBC1 showing on Thursday at 11:45pm), Stephen decides to face the issue head on, to try to understand why his dad killed himself and, in the course of that journey, to uncover what’s behind the staggering statistic that suicide is the biggest single killer of men under 45 in the UK, claiming 6,000 lives each year.
It’s not going to be easy. Stephen talks to his nan about his dad’s suicide, and it’s clear that despite having lived through the experience together, there are things they’ve never discussed. The pain is still raw, especially for Stephen, who is soon fighting back tears of anger, grief and frustration. This is not rehearsed, they really are having this conversation – one they’ve skirted for seven years – for the very first time.
Other contributors are equally brave. Former rugby player Ben is startlingly frank about his own battles with depression and his suicide attempts, while father and son Carlo and Giancarlo discuss the suicide of their child and brother, which neither saw coming.
It’s a deceptively simple film. On one hand, it’s just a series of conversations, but it’s skilfully constructed so that with each encounter we understand a little bit more about both Stephen’s story and this “silent epidemic”. And it soon becomes clear that talking – or a lack of it – is precisely what this is all about…
For many of those at risk, opening up about their innermost feelings does not come naturally. The anxiety and depression stay bottled up, they feel trapped and eventually it can seem like there’s only one way out.
The hope is that hearing Stephen, Professor Green, speaking honestly – showing that there’s bravery in sharing rather than staying quiet – will give other men permission to do the same.
It’s a must-see film, moving, revealing, and ultimately uplifting as it brings Stephen and his family closer together and promises to get many others talking too.
If you’re not one of those who’s desperate to say something after watching it, hopefully you’ll be one who’s willing to listen.
Professor Green: Suicide and Me is a film by Antidote Productions and Globe Productions. Watch it at 11:45pm on Thursday 18th February on BBC1