Yesterday I felt numb all day. Specifically around 11ish when a BBC Wales friend texted me to say Gary Speed was dead and it was just going to be announced by the Football Association Wales. I know I'm a fashion person but I have a great interest in football. My PHd if I ever get round to it will be on football and fashion.
Really was my response because I couldn't take it in, Gary Speed dead at 42. How could I? Only 3 weeks earlier I had bumped into Gary Speed and his wife in Knightsbridge partaking in a spot of shopping before they went as invited guests to the Strictly Come Dancing studio to see Robbie Savage perform. The point of this minute encounter is the politeness and charm that Gary exuded. After all I had only met him a couple of times through work in my radio days and as a 'fan' of his. Let's not pretend there has been an abundance of good looking Welsh boys playing football because there hasn't. Most of my girlfriends including me had a crush on Gary at some point. On his last ever match for Wales which if my memory serves me right was against some one like Romania, he was the one everyone clapped off and it was very difficult for me to interview him with his top off!
Speed's untimely death represents the third public announcement of death that has jolted a nation (and I don't just mean Wales, the whole of the UK and the male population as well). The suicides of Isabella Blow and Lee McQueen touched a fashion loving nation but because of their work, their lifestyles it was almost as if their suicides were brushed into a ridiculous sphere called the 'curse of the creative'. For too long suicide has been aligned with bad behaviour, tortured creative genius, escape from justice - all manner of excuses rather than the cold hard fact that mental illness like the common cold is a disease, a disease that can affect anyone.
Because Gary was a charming man, a straightforward person on the surface, a man who had it all in buckets, no one can comprehend the how or why. On paper the evidence say success in a nice way. Good club football player, looked after himself, played well with no malice, well liked by all and a lovely family man.
The opening paragraph in Henry Winter's article on the death of Gary Speed in The Telegraph is a testament to his stature in the man's world of football. It is this man's world that has been shattered by an easy going member of their club.
Now perhaps we can talk and discuss suicide and its effects without the labelling, without the cries of 'selfish', without any further pigeon holeing. Let's face it Lee McQueen didn't kill himself because he was a creative genius, he was a man in pain, grieving for his mother and struggling with his grief, but he was a man who did suffer with depression. Isabella Blow had long been troubled by her family circumstance, her fall from grace when she became person non grata in the fashion world. Her coping mechanisms weren't there. She suffered from depression.
Depression is not necessarily a vice like grip on the person, some suffer from it all their lives, others have experienced a bout of depression but recovered very well. Some of us never experience it but may have had anxiety or panic attacks. But it is about time it stops being talked about in hushed terms, treated as a 'mental' condition when the body and mind as a whole are physical organs. Health is health. I don't know any family or circle of friends who don't know someone who hasn't suffered from depression or being 'down'.
Suicide is a by product of being unwell not of madness. American blogger Sister Wolf has suffered with the fact her son Max committed suicide and a recent post outlines new developments on understanding suicide
The fashion for labelling people and typecasting suicide needs to stop. We all need to reach out and take time with people. If the recent economic crisis has taught us anything it must be that we should value people more and wealth less. We are rich indeed if we remain on this earth and connected with others. We are best dressed with kindness and caring. If it takes the death of a quiet man to unite us in understanding this then at least something good has come of anguish and pain.