Performance artist and comedian Bryony Kimmings’ new show, Fake It ’til You Make It, presents audiences with the simple but powerful story of Tim Grayburn, a man with severe clinical depression who just so happens to be Kimmings’ real-life fiancé.
The show throws frightening facts at you throughout – “One in four people will experience mental health problems in any one year”; “Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 35 in the UK”; “Nine out of ten people with mental health problems experience stigma and discrimination”.
But perhaps the most frightening fact goes unsaid: there is not enough help out there for people who suffer with mental health issues.
As a chronic depressive myself, Grayburn and Kimmings’ story hit me like a train. Like Grayburn, my GP didn’t explain the ins-and-outs of depression well enough to me. Like Grayburn, my illness has confronted me with the stigma of not being considered a “real man”. And like Grayburn, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for someone’s love and support.
As the play humorously tells us, Kimmings’ research exposed some of the shortcomings of Grayburn’s previous treatments, and their joint efforts have established a safe and effective system to help Grayburn. But although the show is very entertaining, it poses a serious question.
Why, you might ask, did Kimmings have to be Grayburn’s doctor? The answer: the Conservatives.
Because of the Tory restructuring of the NHS, since 2013 mental health has been the responsibility of local authorities. Last year, mental health charity Mind exposed that less than 1.5% of council’s budgets is being spent on mental health services. What this all results in is loved ones and charities having to pick up the slack, a problem that is really evident in Grayburn and Kimmings’ story.
What’s so astonishing about the Tories strategy is how irresponsible it is. With mental health issues killing more males under 35 than anything else, and roughly a third of the population suffering from anxiety or depression at any given time, you’d think it would be a top priority.
Where I live in London, if I needed therapy for severe depression I would need to wait for six weeks. If that doesn’t alarm you, allow me to explain the stupidity: people with suicidal thoughts are being asked to hang on for six whole weeks.
As I said above, in the UK nine out of ten mental health patients experience discrimination and stigma . Because of this social attitude, people who seek help don’t kind of need it, they desperately need it. Despite this, you’d have to wait 42 days in the country’s capital – a city rife with Samaritans signs on train platforms for a reason.
I’m sure the Tories hope that cuts to arts institutions will prevent scathing social commentaries like Fake It ’til You Make It. But fortunately for anyone at Southbank, or indeed the upcoming Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Bryony Kimmings and Tim Grayburn have put an incendiary piece out there.
The play is an important reminder that not just the likes of Stephen Fry or Winston Churchill have mental illnesses. The UK has one of the highest rates of self-harm in Europe – its very likely that someone you know suffers with mental health issues, whether you’re aware of it or not.
The government has the blood of mentally ill individuals on its hands – my blood was nearly a part of that pool. It’s about time we held them more accountable for that. Even austerity cannot justify challenging the sick to heal themselves.
People can contact the Samaritans via phone, email and the charity’s website, or by visiting a branch, about any problem affecting them.
Header Image – Fake It Til You Make It by Southbank Centre