Tag Archive for Gary Speed

How quickly we forget

It all seems so long ago now.

A week or two ago, we were filled with anger and anguish, despair and indignation at two deaths.

The death of Gary Speed- one of the only true nice guys in football- had us reeling as it forced us once again to confront the unknowable that is suicide.

The death of Kate Fitzgerald did something similar.

But the nature of her passing went several steps further, coming as it did after her article about her struggle with depression and her perceptions of her employer’s attitude towards her illness became the story.

The furore was a passionate as it was short-lived. The Irish Times was loudly pilloried for pulling a sheet over her corpse and telling us “there’s nothing to see here”.

The stony silence of Terry Prone  and the rest at the Communications Clinic- who have still to make any public comment on the matter – says it all. There is no more story. There is nothing to see here.

In journalism, one of the most prized talents is also one of the most indefinable and elusive- that of “news sense”. In a good journalist, editor or subeditor, it is the ability to observe a story with laser-like precision and decide whether or not it is worth investing resources in.

That’s the first part. The latter part is knowing when to get out of a story with impeccable timing – when there’s nothing left but an empty shell. When there’s nothing to see here.

An example – I’ll be in Oslo again next week, and I can guarantee two things. People there will be weary of talking to the media about Anders Behring Breivik. And the foreign media will no longer be there.

What a difference from a few months ago, when the quietest city of them all was the centre of a media maelstrom. But the story is gone. There is nothing to see here.

For once, I question the judgement, the news sense of those far more talented than I.

I think, in relation to the deaths of Gary Speed and certainly in relation to Kate Fitzgerald, there most certainly is something to see here.

So I’m going to go against the grain for another little while and keep writing about Kate and Gary. In particular, there are still things we need to know about Kate’s situation.

One question I’d like to see answered centres on the paradox of why The Communications Clinic now has nothing to say about Kate or depression, or anything, when a few short months ago Gay Mitchell- a presidential candidate apparently schooled by them – was talking up his interest in mental health and how he would put suicide at the top of the agenda in the Aras.

For all his foghorning then, Gay seems very silent on the matter now- as do the rest of the candidates.

But I wonder did he ever meet Kate Fitzgerald during his media training? I wonder did he know of her illness? I wonder did he think of her on the campaign trail when he was making those statements?

Maybe Gay is displaying impeccable news sense. Maybe he’s moved on. But I don’t intend to, not yet.

I may not get very far, because sometimes it’s not just news sense that kills a story. Sometimes there are other reasons that we as journalists decide that there is nothing more to see here.

But this time, I’m not buying it. Not yet.

God Speed

Gary Speed, 1969 - 2011.

You may almost be feeling jealous this morning.

Gary Speed dies and the outpouring of grief and love and respect is enormous.

Imagine if that was you.

That would solve a few problems, wouldn’t it?

If you were to die today – like Gary did yesterday – your problems would be over and people would love and respect you the way you always wanted them to.

The way they love and respect Gary.

But the love and respect being poured out in print and on the airwaves this morning is masking something an awful lot bigger – sadness and anger and bitterness at Gary Speed’s passing.

You can be sure his wife and kids love him, but that’s probably not the primary emotion for them just now. They’re probably feeling confused and helpless and angry, consumed by the enormous emptiness left by the sudden death of someone close to them.

His team-mates and coaches who put so much trust in him will be feeling the same way. Shay Given’s tears yesterday were testament to that.

For all their money and fame, Shay and Craig Bellamy and Robbie Savage would surely hand over every penny to have Gary back with them this morning on the training ground or in the café.

They will all be ransacking themselves this morning- was there something they could have said or done to make him change his mind? The vacuum left by his passing will be filled by countless “if onlys”.

However dark and cloying and suffocating, however hopeless it seems, suicide is not the answer. Your problems may cease in that awful, violent moment at your own hand, but the suffering of those around you would be only beginning.

But don’t do it for them. Do it for you- for your own good, pick up the phone and get professional help.

No-one is going to tell you that defeating depression will be easy, but at least it won’t be the end.

Most people were shocked by Speed’s death because the rest of his life looked so promising.

So is yours. Go live it.

www.samaritans.org

Finding a light in the darkness

Welsh football legend Gary Speed, found dead today at age 42.

As I walked back from the shops with my seven-year-old an hour or two ago, I took a moment to think about how lucky I am.

Two children, a growing business, a new house and a book nominated for two prizes.

It doesn’t get much better.

My daughter was going through a list of animals to see if there was one I could consider getting her as a pet.

Despite the grey, blustery Stockholm weather, I wouldn’t have swapped places with anyone else in the world at that moment.

Shortly afterwards, the news of the death of former Newcastle and Wales midfielder Gary Speed hit me like a punch in the stomach.

I met him briefly in Dublin once. He was different to most other footballers- self-assured but not arrogant, confident but not cocky. Intelligent, well-spoken, a gentleman.

There is nothing gentle about depression or suicide.

Depression doesn’t care about your skill, or your money, or how many medals you have.

Depression is not a passive lying-down in the face of the challenges of life.

It is a battle, a struggle. Sometimes it is a fight to the bitter end. Sometimes it doesn’t end well.

Just before I moved to Sweden a team-mate of mine took his own life. Few things have affected me as much as that did – he was a young man, a superb footballer with a beautiful young son. But none of this mattered in the end.

Aside for the grief and memories of his family and friends, all that is left is a fair play trophy named after him- ironic given that he was known as the hardest tackler on our team.

The coming days will see much written about what a great player Gary Speed was for his clubs and his country. Much will be written about depression and suicide, and a lot of it will be nonsense.

If you haven’t suffered it, you will find it hard to imagine just how suffocating and crushing it can be. It is not an illness that can be cured by simply talking to someone, or going for a walk or “copping yourself on”. It’s a lot more complex than that.

But one thing that is certain is that there are organisations who do great work in helping people who are depressed or suicidal. The likes of the Samaritans and Pieta House have a proven track record of helping people who suffer from depression to find a light in the darkness. They are deserving of your support.

As Swansea played at home to Aston Villa today, the minute’s silence was interrupted by spontaneous applause and the chant of “there’s only one Gary Speed”. It was a far more fitting tribute to a man whose goals and tackles often brought the crowds to their feet.

But it is a tragedy for the man, his family and for football that his undoubted skill and courage on the field wasn’t enough to help him defeat depression off it.

Rest in peace Gary. You were a great champion, and you will be missed.

 

Suicide won’t solve your problems, or make people love or respect you more.

Call the Samaritans or visit www.samaritans.org and get help. There is an answer, but suicide is not it.