I must admit I hadn’t a scooby who Tim Rhys-Evans is. I find out here he’s the auteur of a male voice choir, Only Men Aloud, which won a competition called Last Choir Standing, which led to sell out concerts and record gigs and an MBE from the Queen. None of these things interest me. What interests me is Rhys-Evans’s admission that he’s got a mental health problem and tried to take his life. People that make lists are flagged up as in danger. Rhys-Evans made a list. People who write suicide notes are one step away from death. Rhys-Evans’s suicide note ran to fifteen pages. He’s still here and read it at the end of the programme. It’s a poignant moment. Rhys-Evans recalls as he was writing the suicide note something broke within him and he began wailing. There’s something biblical about this. A calling out of the self to the void.
I was supporting someone that was being assessed whether they were ‘fit for work’ as he had a depressive illness. Appointments were running two hours late because the assessors were on the sick and not enough of them had turned up for work. That’s irony for you. But we sat it out. We could see the different members of the latest professional group that has taken over from ATOS and most of them seemed to be female. I said to my mate, ‘you’ll get him’. Older man, shirt and tie, shiny shoes, light-blue suit. ‘You’ll get Dr Gestapo,’ I said.
‘Aye,’ he said, ‘I probably will.’
That’s what happens when you’re depressed. You always think the worst. I hadn’t seen Rhys-Evans’s programme at this point. So I tried to cheer him up by saying just because your suicidal doesn’t mean you’re depressed. But he was having none of it. He was sure it was his fate that he was going to get Dr Gestapo. I gave him a few examples of people that were suicidal but not depressed. I couldn’t mind the name of that group that killed themselves because they thought they were getting picked up by a spaceship, but I did mention Spock and the early Christians. Think positive, cheery thoughts. Ying and Yang. Singing hymns and fling their weans at lions and shouting eat me first, but that ended up sounding like a Proclaimer’s track. I got him a drink of water. At least it was free. Dr Gestapo was waiting file in hand. He’d more chance with the lions, but what can you say? No wonder he was depressed. I was too.
Fate intervened in the case of Tim Rhys-Evans. His local mental health authority crisis-intervention team had him on the phone and they came to the door and rescued him. Tim Rhys-Evans had nothing but praise for their professionalism and caring. They literally saved his life.
Goldenhill Crisis Prevention Team, in my local authority, also run an out-of-hours service. But my advice is don’t bother wasting your time phoning them if you or any of your loved ones are having a mental-health breakdown. By the time an appointment is booked –three weeks on Tuesday- the crisis will have solved itself or the person will be dead. This is one of those public services that isn’t a service and isn’t open to the public. So I’m glad it worked out for Tim Rhys-Evans in Wales. It helps if you are a celebrity, of course. That makes me sound cynical. That’s depressing, but true. Even Tim Rhys-Evans with a tape of this programme in hand would still have no chance if he was being assessed by Dr Gestapo. Fit for the works.