New Sawbridgeworth mayor Greg Rattey supporting Men's Health Forum after he reveals aim to kill himself in his 20s
In a jaw-dropping moment at Sawbridgeworth Town Council, the new mayor revealed why he had chosen a mental health support group as one of his chosen charities.
Cllr Greg Rattey told the council's annual general meeting he would be raising funds for the Men's Health Forum, an online organisation which supports men with depression and other mental illnesses.
And then he revealed how, in his 20s, he had left his home in Bishop's Stortford with the express aim of killing himself.
In an interview with the Indie afterwards, Greg recalled that as he made his way to Stortford railway station an image of his parents being told of his death came into his mind.
"I remember looking at my house for the last time, thinking this is it," he said. "I walked down Warwick Road and I got to the [Herts and Essex] girls' high school when I suddenly had a thought in my head about seeing my mum and dad.
"Where my mum and dad live on Dunmow Road, I could see the police officers going up the steps and I could even see my poor old mum, because she had mobility issues at this point, struggling to stand up and them telling her 'You need to take a seat'.
"That stopped me dead in my tracks, and I just turned around and I've never looked back and never will."
The conflict in Greg which caused him to contemplate ending his life was between his sexuality and being converted to religious group the Mormons at the age of 19.
His family had joined the organisation, which is based on the theology and traditions of the Latter Day Saint movement, as his sister Beverley had become besotted with family pop group The Osmonds, who were members.
"I stopped going [to the Mormons] when I was about 26, 27, but I was in until I was 31," said Greg, whose homosexuality did not fit with the doctrine of the organisation.
Greg referenced the recent TV series It's a Sin, which highlighted the gay scene in the 1980s.
The 64-year-old has been an avid campaigner for gay rights over the past 40 years and supports members of religious organisations who struggle to remove themselves.
Although elected to the town council on an Independent ticket in January 2020, he sees himself as a "progressive Tory", but worked with Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair on gay rights issues and was praising of former Labour MP Paul Boeteng.
In his speech to the town council he said his theme for his mayoral year would be "positivity about our town".
A trader in the town himself, having run a hair salon in Bell Street for more than 45 years, in his role as a town councillor Greg became a champion for businesses and traders during the coronavirus pandemic, working with them to ensure they could avail themselves of grants on offer from the Government.
He said there was a breath of fresh air sweeping through the town with all of the new businesses starting up.
"I've got to know so many more people. I'm going to be one of the business champions, and I've also asked for Nathan [newly-elected Conservative town councillor Nathan Parsad] to be the other one and between us we want to keep the momentum going."
Greg's family have their roots firmly in Sawbridgeworth and Stortford, with his parents having been born in the area. He was a councillor in Sawbridgeworth in the 1980s and then in Stortford.
The second charity that he will be raising money for is the Hailey Centre, based at Sayesbury Manor, Bell Street. As a trustee Greg was praising of the staff and volunteers, particularly manager Kerry Reynolds, and vowed to raise lots of money for them.
His deputy mayor for the year ahead will be Cllr Craig Chester. Greg's main consort will be his sister Beverley.
After the difficult year his mayoral predecessor Cllr Annelise Furnace experienced, Greg is hoping for a more "open" year when he can hold more fundraising events.
And asked what sort of mayor he will be, he simply said: "It will be fun!"