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 http://www.samaritans.org and get help. There is an answer, but suicide is not it. 

4 responses to “Finding a light in the darkness

  1. Depression makes every moment a painful struggle; its a struggle against painful thoughts that wont go away, and the thoughts themselves seek other thoughts, until there is nothing in your head but pain and despair and sadness. I know where mine comes from, a childhood of being kicked around, punched and verbally abused, by a madman of a father. It left me worthless and friendless. And I feel the same today. Every day. I have achieved many things in my life but they mean nothing. When I wake up I contemplate the moment when I decide to go, the point of no return. When I go to bed, the have the same thoughts.

  2. Pingback: Finding a light in the darkness - Journalist.ie·

  3. Cheers Phil for this a sad day and a big loss for football.His work with Raymond Verheijen in Wales from grassroots up was just begining to bare fruit.devastating blow for football and thoughts with his family.

  4. That feeling of being punched in the stomach is something a sufferer of a depression repeatedly feels – a stomach churning, turning over, nauseous feeling. At least Gary is in no mental pain now. RIP Gary and God bless his family and friends.

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