The Cork Board

Some thoughts on the sudden passing of Gary Speed

On Sunday we were travelling back from spending the weekend with friends when we took a pit-stop at a service station. A few people stared at the news screen hanging from the ceiling. I, like many others, was shocked to hear of Gary Speed’s death. It was almost unthinkable. Unbelievable. Everybody loved Gary Speed regardless of which team you followed. He was respected, admired. A gentleman and thorough professional. But Suicide ?  WHAT?!

About every couple of months I have a low day. I mooch around like some skanky teenager kicking cats and tin cans. I’m down. We all have those days. Running on “Empty” . Then the battery charges – the meter goes up – and away we go again.

Depression is different.

I know a couple, and for sake of argument because I don’t have permission to tell their story, let’s call them Sally and Dave. Sally was always top in class. Top marks. Went to a top uni. Top degree. Top international job with top pay. Top.Top.Top. Then “bang” . The valve blew and Sally crashed. Sally was diagnosed with stress related clinical depression, the chemical imbalance in the brain that says no matter how successful you are and how much you hide your stress your body ain’t lying. Happy pills were duly prescribed.

I don’t mean to be flippant. This is a serious issue, but I don’t want to lay one on you, either.

A couple of years later and still on the “Happy Pills” Dave came home to find Sally curled up in a darkened room gently sobbing. She said that she was afraid she was going to kill herself. She understood what was happening in her head but was afraid of not being able to control the compulsion. I guess, afraid of being out of control. Dave and Sally sought serious help then.

When all this was going on hardly anyone knew. No-one could see from the outside and only the most trusted and closest had any clue what pain Sally was in. I think this is my point. Depression is misunderstood and a solitary illness for those who suffer from it. (Sally is fine now.) Telling someone with depression to pick themselves up or “pull yourself together” may be well meaning but, unfortunately, only displays our common misunderstanding. It’s just not as easy as that or they would do it.

“Understanding” is often the only help you can offer and, is sometimes all that may be required. But I guess it’s a hard trick to pull off. And if you are someone who loves, lives with or cares for someone with depression, then cut yourself some slack. You’ll need enough strength for both of you.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Gary Speed’s family and friends for whom this is the greatest shock of all.

15 thoughts on “Some thoughts on the sudden passing of Gary Speed”

  1. Well said. Though no fan of football I am of the human race and this man, it seems to me, was hankering for real understanding within a falsely macho flamboyant industry. This contradiction between his vulnerability and rock solid grunt makes his condition that much more stark.

    Still, in the 21st Century, not enough is being done to understand this stealthy killer.


    1. You pick up on a good point, RR. One can only imagine that the football dressing room allows no prisoners, and the sooner that Depression is taken seriously as a misunderstood illness the better all sufferers will be. I appreciate your illuminating comment.

  2. Too true about depression. I would click on the “like” button on this post but it seems too cheerful for the subject matter! I’m glad we at least live in an age when people are starting to recognize depression as an illness, not a matter of willpower — it’s too horrible for anyone to have to endure something like that and fend off well-meaning folks telling them “snap out of it” as well.

    1. I think slowly people are beginning to realise that depression is more than just the blues and that it can be a serious issue for some people. It must be horrible to constantly have that fear in your daily life.

  3. Such a sad day, when we lose someone so great.
    Depression is but one reminder (to me at least), of how susceptible to our own brain chemistry we all are.
    I like to rely on science to get me out of my ruts.
    Sunlight, other than producing TONS of beneficial vitamin D, can also raise Serotonin levels in the body — the mood enhancing drug of the brains natural pharmacy. So when I’m down, i go outside.
    Exorcize can do this as well, so i do that too, despite direly not wanting to do either of these activities whatsoever.
    Triptophan, the legendary turkey sleepy-time protein, is what u use to manufacture Serotonin, so go for a bite!
    As a friend of someone who is down, never pretend that you can fully understand what they’re going through — each case is unique to the individual, and a good open ear is often the best medicine. Perhaps listen as you walk outside, and head for a meal?
    I do worry we over-medicate people today. Those depression drugs raise Serotonin outside of the body’s influence, and overtime your brain produces less and less to compensate for the artificial levels in your system — leading to a dependence to feel “normal”, over the long run.
    I have no idea if these things actually take me from my slumps, or if i’ve just convinced myself as such — but for me, i guess either way’s good enough. I am lucky to not suffer from a severe case though, and i never forget that.

    1. Excellent points here, Jared. Thank you. i too worry about over-medication. It seems that once the “Happy Pills” are working the med has done his job. I do exactly what you do too, go out side for a walk, often with my dictaphone or mobile for recording since a solitary walk frequently gets the creative juices going.
      The chemistry of the brain is a mysterious melting-pot for sure.
      I’m no expert in counselling but listening without judging really is a great help, I agree.
      Thanks for the great comment and the debate.

    1. ….it certainly is. Everyone who follows sport here and many who don’t have been truly stunned by this. He was admired and respected by everyone. A real genuine individual. It still feels strange.

  4. This has been a tragic year in sport all together. I am a big fan of soccer. And the passing of Gary Speed was quite a shock. I remember his days with Newcastle United. There was also the tragic deaths of Dan Wheldon in IndyCar Racing while racing here in America, and Marco Simoncelli (spelling) in MotoGP. I love racing in all forms, and Marco was truly an up and coming star in MotoGP. I liked his style of racing, and his hair 🙂 There is so much pressure at the top level of sport. Either in the performance or in the lifestyle. I admire those who pursue their dreams to the fullest.

    1. There was a recent article in the press here about how sports stars now have access to psychologists to help them deal with stress and performance. Clearly there are still some things not discussed. I remember the Dan Wheldon and Marco Simnocelli incidents. You have to ask youself if pushing yourself so hard is worth it in the end if you are gambling with your life. Thanks for your excellent comment, Walter.

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