CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night's TV

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: A moment of despair… and the legacy of a lifetime of agonies

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Roman Kemp: Our Silent Emergency 

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2020: The Story Of Us

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Suicide is painless, ran the lyrics of the most inane television theme ever written. It played over the opening titles of the satirical war sitcom, M*A*S*H.

It isn’t painless for all those left behind. Few events create more suffering than an act of self-destruction, carried out in a moment of despair.

DJ Roman Kemp, discussing the increase in suicides among young men in Our Silent Emergency (BBC1), was still in shock from the recent death of his close friend, radio producer Joe Lyons. Joe took his own life without warning last August.

Roman was so traumatised that tears flowed every time he tried to talk about it. The lifelong implications for Joe’s family, and for Roman himself, were still sinking in.

Joe’s mother Celia was better able to explain the cost. ‘It’s very hard,’ she said. ‘If they want to end their pain, it means you carry that pain for them for the rest of your life. And no family should have to do that.’

DJ Roman Kemp, discussing the increase in suicides among young men in Our Silent Emergency (BBC1), was still in shock from the recent death of his close friend, radio producer Joe Lyons. Joe took his own life without warning last August

Roman talked frankly about his own bouts of depression, and told his mother Shirlie that at one low point in 2019, he thought about ending his life by jumping in front of a train.

I’m sure he does know, when he thinks about it, of the endless hurt it would impose on his parents and sister, the people he loves so much.

He would also be inflicting awful emotions and memories on the train driver and paramedics called to the scene.

Roman met the friends of other young men whose suicides were unforeseen. He was so intent on treating these deaths with proper respect that the documentary failed to delve into the wider causes of this crisis in mental health.

If the prevalence of intrusive social media, or drug and alcohol misuse, plays any part, Roman made no attempt to find out.

He did hit upon a simple trick: Asking friends twice whether they were ‘OK’ — so they could say ‘I’m fine’ at first, and then open up the second time.

He also sat in with primary school children learning to talk about their emotions.

This one-off documentary was important for the way it urged people, especially men who might feel awkward discussing their feelings, not to be afraid to seek or offer help.

The uplifting power of sheer selfless dedication to others was the theme of 2020: The Story Of Us (ITV), told largely through phone videos filmed by nurses and doctors caught up in the early weeks of the pandemic

But it shied away from stating a harsh fact that might help pull people back from the brink: Suicide is not painless. It leaves a legacy of agonies.

The uplifting power of sheer selfless dedication to others was the theme of 2020: The Story Of Us (ITV), told largely through phone videos filmed by nurses and doctors caught up in the early weeks of the pandemic.

These frontline diaries captured the exhaustion and the sleeplessness of people who couldn’t quit, because so many were relying on them.

Among the Covid patients was children’s author Michael Rosen, who was placed in an induced coma. Rosen has written with heartbreaking openness about the death of his 18-year-old son Eddie from meningitis.

By the bitterest coincidence, the man who saved Rosen’s life, Dr Hugh Montgomery, lost his son Oscar, 17, in a drowning accident while this exceptional programme was being made.

The tragedy added another layer of unbearable sadness to a gruelling story.

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