Woody Becomes Ambassador For Rethink Mental Illness

Woody and Nick Sunday Express

This months blog was going to be all about Rethink Mental Health, and how Nick and I got involved, but then came along a brilliant article in the Sunday Express by Danny Buckland, and it says everything I was going to say, so to save me repeating myself, here it is.

The celebrated drummer, known as Woody, is releasing a CD with his younger brother Nick who has battled schizophrenia for most of his life.

The 12-track album showcases Nick’s songwriting, guitar playing and distinctive vocals.

“My brother has a mental illness that most people don’t understand,” says Woody.

“They think of schizophrenia as axe-wielding characters or as Jekyll and Hyde personalities but it is not like that.

“The album has taken about three years and has been a joy for both of us. Nick has conquered adversity and achieved amazing things and I am so proud of what we’ve done.”

Woody, who had a chart-topping hit with Our House, has also become an ambassador for Rethink Mental Illness, joining Dame Judi Dench and Alastair Campbell in the campaign for better services and treatments.

The 52-year-old’s exposure to mental illness came after Nick, who is 15 months younger, experimented with hallucinogenic drugs as he entered his teens.

He took LSD twice and the damage was catastrophic.

The warning signs surfaced at a school gig where Woody first saw the embryonic Madness, then called the North London Invaders.

“Music was in our blood and Nick was the best guitarist around. He was the front man in local groups, a vivacious character,” Woody says.

“He was in a group called Animal Farm on the same bill but was shuffling around, shoe gazing, with his back to the audience. I couldn’t believe what he was doing but I didn’t know what was wrong.

“He was much more creative and popular than me but started to become introverted. He slowly detached himself from everything.”

Nick’s condition gradually worsened as Woody joined Madness and carved a career in the vibrant post-punk music scene.

Nick started hearing voices that made it virtually impossible to find and keep a job.

Soon the episodes introduced a suicidal element.

“There was a really hard time when Nick had given up music and would go wandering for days,” says Woody, who lives in south London.

“He ran a lot, didn’t eat and lost so much weight he looked like a corpse.

“I would be on tour in Scandinavia and suddenly Nick would show up. I’d put him in the hotel room, try to look after him a bit but then he would go off again. It was distressing for all the family.”

Nick, who now lives with his girlfriend Yvonne in Essex, adds: “My condition completely changed my life. I started to have panic attacks and went into myself. Everything looked strange.

“I would watch TV and it felt like the newsreader was in the room talking to me personally. Eventually the whole world became full of people talking to me.”

Nick took overdoses of sleeping tablets and cut his wrists until he was sectioned under the Mental Health Act when he was 27 and a medication regime was devised.

“It was a turning point and having that diagnosis really helped me,” he says.

“I became aware of what was happening to me and the going got a lot easier. I’m lucky that I’ve had such great treatment from the NHS. I’ve had 10 community psychiatric nurses over the years and they and the psychiatrists have been brilliant.

“I started playing guitar again after I got out of hospital and contacted my old friends as it is so important to meet and talk to people.”

The brothers kept up their musical relationship and Nick co-wrote a track on a 1999 Madness album.

As their songwriting flourished they eventually formed a band, The Magic Brothers.

Fellow musicians queued to be on the recording and the album, The Magic Line, is out on September 30.

“We have such an understanding,” says Woody.

“Some call it work but for us it is just love.

“I’m very proud to be an ambassador for Rethink. It is focusing on people with serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia. I know from experience that it gives fantastic support to family members who go through it.”

Nick adds: “I hope the fact that I’ve done this album with Woody will encourage other people with mental illness to think they can do whatever they want in life.

“I’ve needed my family like nothing else through this and Woody has always been there. I sometimes hold a candle to the times when we very young and inseparable. That keeps me going.”

Paul Jenkins, CEO of Rethink Mental Illness, says: “We are thrilled to have Woody and Nick’s support. They have been through tough times and come out the other side showing there is hope for people with severe mental illness.”

For help with any mental health issues contact Rethink on 0300 5000 927 or at rethink.org

If this has inspired you to get involved, don’t be shy, even the smallest donation can make a difference!

All the best