BREAKING the taboo around men’s mental health is important to Martin and Roman Kemp. They both know what it is like to battle depression demons.
Capital FM DJ Roman’s powerful BBC documentary, Our Silent Emergency, tackled the suicide of his best mate and radio producer Joe Lyons, who tragically took his own life at the age of 31 last August.
Martin and Roman Kemp are opening up the conversation around men’s mental healthCredit: David Cummings
But the film, which has been nominated for best authored documentary at the NTAs, also revealed that Roman, 28, has been taking antidepressants since he was a teen and that he once had suicidal thoughts himself.
Roman, son of Eighties pop icon Martin Kemp, 59, says: “I selfishly made that documentary for me because I felt like it would give me access to the people who I knew I wanted to go and speak to, to help myself.
“But what shocked me the most was people going, ‘Oh my God, you took an antidepressant on TV’ — that was the last thing I was worried about.
“In the same way geezers drink protein shakes and they go to the gym to make their bodies bigger, I have to take them to make my brain better. I have no shame about that.
Roman has spoken openly about his struggles since his pal Joe Lyons took his own life last summerCredit: Instagram
“It was Joe’s birthday the other day and I remember the day that the documentary came out I got really upset. It was like, this is about him and he’s not here.
BLIGHTED BY SADNESS
“When it comes to an NTA it almost feels like it’s just over-whelming because you just forget that thing that you went through was on camera.”
Former Spandau Ballet bassist Martin faced his own battle with depression after an MRI scan in 1995 discovered he had two brain tumours.
A major operation and radio-therapy removed them, but the star found himself blighted by sadness.
He says: “Roman and I both suffered from depression at certain points in our life, but they are different forms of depression.
“Ro’s was a chemical form, mine came from a situation I was in which was over that four-year period when I was suffering from a brain tumour.
The father and son, pictured with Roman’s mum Shirlie and sister Harley Moon, have both battled depressionCredit: Instagram
“It was that situation, that helplessness, that made me feel so low. They’d fixed me in hospital, they’d done the mechanics, but I didn’t know where to go for the aftercare and that’s where I fell into a hole.”
Martin reveals it was his wife Shirlie, 59 — one half of Eighties pop duo Pepsi And Shirlie — who realised that he needed professional help.
He says: “When I look back, I was a typical Englishman saying, ‘No, I can get through this on my own, I don’t need to talk to anyone’. But Shirlie knew that I did, and she tricked me into it, basically.
“She sent me to see this fella, a masseuse. He was also a therapist, but Shirlie made out I was just going for a massage.
The DJ’s documentary Our Silent Emergency revealed that he has been taking antidepressants since he was a teenCredit: PA
“As soon as I lay down, he was talking to me and within seconds I was bawling. I remember going back there every other day, just to cry, but it got it out of my system.”
As well as taking daily medication, Roman sees a therapist to help manage his mental health.
He says: “I go to therapy all the time. It’s so important not to think that doing that means you’ve failed — that’s so messed up because it’s the opposite.
“Going there makes me mentally more stable than people that don’t. I’m trying to make it better.”
He says he has no shame about taking the pillsCredit: BBC
Shortly after Martin — who also has a daughter, photographer Harley Moon, 31 — had the all-clear from doctors in 1998, he landed a role on BBC soap EastEnders as hardman Steve Owen.
He says: “I can’t tell you how important that was for me at that time.
“Because I’d just come through that whole depression following the brain tumour, and it was the job that I will always look back on and think it saved my life.
“When I went into that show, my confidence and my charisma after what I’d been through was on the floor. I was still suffering depression.
Roman says it was hard making his documentary without Joe by his sideCredit: Instagram
“My brain wasn’t even working properly. If I wanted to walk one way, I’d walk the other. I couldn’t remember lines properly.
“But the character has this incredible confidence and charisma that kind of gave me my life back.
“I spent three and a half years as him and it made me forget about what I’d been through.”
Martin’s character Steve came to an untimely end, in a car explosion in 2002. But, given the magic of soaps, could Martin ever make a comeback?
Martin reveals he struggled with his mental health after surviving two brain tumours in 1995Credit: Getty
He says: “They blew me up, so it’s an impossibility. But there have been times when I wished I’d never got blown up and I was still in one piece so that I could have gone back.
“Would I go back now? I don’t think I would. It’s not for me now.”
Roman won over a legion of new fans when appearing in the I’m A Celeb jungle in 2019, and now appears on Channel 4’s Celebrity Gogglebox with his dad.
The pair also host their own ITV chat show, Martin & Roman’s Weekend Best!
The star says that while Roman’s was chemical, his was a result of feeling of ‘helpless’Credit: Rex
The pair see each other so often that they won’t make a big fanfare this Sunday on Father’s Day.
Roman says: “We’re not really a family of tradition because we’re lucky enough to see each other a lot. We don’t live too far from one another and we always make sure that we send each other a message on those types of days.”
Martin says: “We’ve never been a big family to celebrate anything like that really — even birthdays or wedding anniversaries — because we see each other and appreciate each other all the time.”
Adding about their bond, Roman says: “It is the best. It’s like we’re mates. No conversation is barred.”
A major lifeline for Martin was being cast on EastEndersCredit: News Group Newspapers Ltd
Martin says: “It’s something Shirlie and I dreamed of when Ro was a kid — us four being a gang, rather than a family where you had parents that tell the kids what to do. It wasn’t about that at all. It was about listening to each other.
“You have to be taught how to love, and that came down from my mum and dad. They were together for 50 years. They loved each other until the day they passed away. I’ve tried to pass that down to my kids. It’s something you need to be taught.”
Agreeing, Roman says: “One million per cent. I’m way more ‘wanna have kids’ than my sister, for sure. If you ask me the question ‘Why are we here?’ then it’s to make more nice people.”
The presenter split from Swiss neuroscientist girlfriend Anne-Sophie Flury last July and was spotted on a date with influencer Danielle Anabi last October.
As well as undergoing therapy, playing Steve Owen gave Martin his confidence backCredit: BBC
But these days he is navigating the ups and downs of single life.
He says: “I find dating apps quite tough. I got banned from Hinge because people said it was a fake profile.
“How am I meant to meet people? You go to a bar, you get agg. You don’t want that. You want to get to speak to someone first.
“But I’ll be totally honest, I don’t like chatting to someone a long time online before meeting them. I find that very odd. If I like that person then I’ll probably want to meet up with them for a drink.”
BIGGEST HOSTING GIGS
Martin says: “Apps are the new way to do it, aren’t they? When I was a younger guy, you had to get dressed up, go to a club.
“The sign was that the girl would put her handbag down on the ground and dance around it. That would mean they’re open to a guy coming up to them. That would be the signal. Now, obviously, that doesn’t happen.”
He was disappointed when his character was killed off in a car crash, but he says the show ‘saved my life’Credit: BBC
But Roman admits he mostly has mums sliding into his DMs.
He says: “They say my daughter really fancies you, but here’s my number. It’s all right — as long as they’re not turning up outside my house, it’s fine. I’m used to everyone fancying my dad — mates, girlfriends, whoever.”
So what does the future hold for the father-son duo? Martin admits we should not hold our breath for a Spandau reunion.
He says: “The future for the band? I don’t think there is one. Those decisions have been made.
YOU’RE NOT ALONE
EVERY 90 minutes in the UK a life is lost to suicide.
It doesn’t discriminate, touching the lives of people in every corner of society – from the homeless and unemployed to builders and doctors, reality stars and footballers.
It’s the biggest killer of people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car crashes.
Yet it’s rarely spoken of, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage unless we all stop and take notice, now.
That is why The Sun launched the You’re Not Alone campaign.
The aim is that by sharing practical advice, raising awareness and breaking down the barriers people face when talking about their mental health, we can all do our bit to help save lives.
Let’s all vow to ask for help when we need it, and listen out for others… You’re Not Alone.
If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support:
Martin rose to fame as the bassist in Spandau BalletCredit: Getty
“Gary’s out there, he’s got his album out there at the moment and he’s loving being a solo artist. Tony’s loving what he does.
“We’ve all grown up and even if it doesn’t go again — which I think would be a shame — I’d love to see it go one more time.”
Meanwhile, ambitious Roman has his eye firmly on the prize — one of the biggest hosting gigs in showbiz. He says: “There’s one job I do want to do, then I’ll be happy. I want to host the Brits.”