Are You Really OK? – Roman Kemp

Published By: Mirror Books
Pages: 300
Released On: 27/10/2022

Capital DJ Roman Kemp has achieved much success but he hasn’t had an easy ride. He’s battled depression since the age of 15, once contemplated suicide, and has bravely fought to smash the stigma surrounding medication and mental health.

The lifelong Arsenal supporter grafted his way to Capital’s highly coveted Breakfast slot – and pulled in record-beating listeners with his cheeky sense of humour. Who else could convince Ed Sheeran to tattoo Roman’s leg on air, drive around London playing cab-roulette with James Corden, get Craig David to freestyle rap, or rope Lewis Capaldi into a life-drawing class? Then, in 2019, Roman won over yet more fans coming third in I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, with his uncanny impressions of everyone from Ant and Dec to his mate Harry Styles. Here, for the first time, Roman’s ready to reveal the things that weren’t captured on camera, and how his time in the jungle changed his whole outlook on life.

During the pandemic, Roman’s life changed when his best friend – the producer who’d nurtured his career every step of the way – tragically took his own life. Amidst the shock, loss and confusion, Roman bravely made a moving BBC3 documentary about the alarming rates of suicide amongst young males. he’s well aware he too, could have been a statistic.

In this page-turning book – peppered with hilarious and surprising anecdotes from his youth – Roman also unflinchingly tackles the taboo of suicide, in the hope that by talking about his own struggles and sharing advice, he can help others. Roman shares all the experiences that have shaped him, and why love, marriage and having his own family one day are so important to his future dreams.

*****

Roman is so open and honest in this, even about stuff you wouldn’t necessarily talk to anyone about, and now he’s told thousands of people. It’s very refreshing to read.

I really appreciate his honesty in every area but particularly about his upbringing. He’s aware that he’s had a privileged life that not everyone has and I really like how he’s been honest about the positives and negatives of that fact, without sounding spoilt or patronising. It’s a nice balance.

It had more substance than I was expecting. I thought it was “just” going to be a book about mental health with anecdotes and helpful advice. And that would have been perfectly fine. But it’s so much more. He’s taken us through his life, his childhood, adolescence and adulthood, his family life, his career, his ups and downs, and the things that have built up to crate this picture of mental health. It’s not a self-help book as such. He doesn’t pretend he’s a know-it-all expert or guru, he’s just telling us his experience.

Whilst I’ve seen Roman in programmes such as DNA Journey and the documentary he did on mental health and suicide, I don’t listen to Capital Radio and so that side of his story was interesting to me. And I know of his parents and enjoyed their music but they were necessarily a family I followed (figuratively of course), but it was a real eye opener learning about them as people rather than just their names.

You will find yourself entertained and educated and you’ll be laughing and crying. It is a real rollercoaster of emotions – which, at the end of the day, is what makes us human. Ideally we want to live in a world where there is no suicide, there is no mental health crises; but that won’t happen, and it’s people like Roman who are using their position to help make things a little easier in the meantime.

I have had my depressive episodes over the years, some very recently. I wasn’t wanting to kill myself per se, but my medical condition was getting so bad, it got to the stage where I would have been happy to die in my sleep. It even got to the stage where I had to reach out to the Samaritans for help to talk me down from the ledge. So it’s really important that we have things like this book, from people who, from afar, seem to have it all, as it reminds us we’re all in the same storm when it comes to mental health, we just have to find the best boat to sail it.

I would recommend this book to anyone, whether you yourself are dealing with a mental health crisis, or a friend or loved one is, or if you just want some advice in case the situation arises. It’s not preachy, he doesn’t pretend to know everything, but you can tell he wants to use his friend’s death to make sure no-one has to go through the same thing.

I lost a childhood friend by suicide in 2019. I won’t go into too much detail as I don’t believe it’s right or fair on his family, but the shock and pain that reverberated from that, even to this day, was unlike any loss or grief I’ve been through. I completely understand where Roman is coming from when he talks about the loss and how “suicide grief” can impact you.

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