Sunday 27 November 2011

Gary Speed, Suicide and 'Cowardice'

I was so sad to hear the news, today, that footballer and Welsh national team manager, Gary Speed, has apparently committed suicide – by hanging - at the age of 42.

Globally, more than a million people take their own lives, each year, and every one of those passings is an excruciating tragedy for those left behind.

I guess it’s even more incomprehensible, and seems an even greater waste, when that person appeared to have so much going for them, in life.

It was a gut-punch to read the almost inevitable troll comments that he was a coward, including from a Brentford footballer who wrote (and then deleted) on Twitter:

“coward. NoRIP.”

It would be easy to blast him - and, sadly, the many others – as disrespectful, grossly insensitive and downright mean-spirited, but that solves nothing except to sate one’s own ego – to give energy to the illusion that, because we care and they don’t, we are in some way better than them.

What we need to do is educate through that sort of bigotry by helping people see that suicide is such a prevalent malfunction in humanity, which touches people of all demographics, and it’s something that could lay its icy fingers on their own shoulders.

The footballer who made that above comment is 20 years old; he’s out on loan from a Championship club that looks on course to return to the English Premier League – arguably the greatest football league on the planet. He’s getting match experience and has dedicated himself to becoming the best he can be, because he wants to shine…

I am touching wood as I write this, because – as I hope regular readers recognise – I have no ill will toward anyone…

But what if, say, next year, this guy was in the middle of a game, made a crucial, but awkward tackle and in the process, twisted down and shattered his leg? Not just a clean break that could see him fight back to fitness within the year, but a multiple-fracture, career-ending injury?

Suddenly, all the hopes and dreams he’s cherished and strived towards since he was a child would be ripped away from him. He is a professional athlete, and you don’t get to reach that level without putting your heart and soul – your blood, sweat and tears - into making your dream become reality.

How would he feel if his dreams were torn out of his hands in that one moment of absurdly bad luck? If all of his plans for the future – of success, excellence, wealth and stardom – were suddenly and irrevocably just dreams again?

He wouldn’t get depressed? He wouldn’t think his life was over?

On his Twitter bio, he says: “Football is my saviour.”

Ten years down this theoretical line, when he’s working in a ‘normal’ job, married to a woman with cellulite, and maybe his team have consolidated themselves back as a regular in the Premiership, wouldn’t it twist him up inside to consider that he could have been in his footballing prime, maybe playing for and a hero of England?

There’s nothing cowardly about suicide, and there’s nothing courageous about it, either.

You only reach that point when you feel that everything is lost.

I received a message, earlier, suggesting that – because of the news – I should take one of my video blogs down from my blog site, as I cheerily suggest in it: “Don’t hang yourself!”

I decided not to, though I was tempted, as I completely understood the reason for the suggestion.

I realise that remark could be seen as flippant or insensitive, if taken out of context… but in context (and I do always try to write in context, even if there’s a meandering in my story before I get to the point), you have to understand that it was the first time I’d returned to the same spot where I’d ventured, a few years earlier, with the sole intent of ending my life.

I know that pressure of mind, to be there at the end of the world, blinded by tears, pulling the noose around my neck, feeling the blood swelling in my head, having abandoned all hope, having lost sight of all the love and care that would be wrapped around me if I’d only called for help.

And how many people out there - friends and family of Gary, and of all people who have taken their own lives – are aching inside, wishing that right now they were hugging them, supporting them after they’d cried out for help, giving their strength to someone who had forgotten their own?

They don’t want… this

Of all the illnesses, ailments, diseases and disasters that cause death in this world, suicide is one of the most devastating – but also the most preventable, and I really mean 100% of suicides wouldn’t happen if we could just learn to communicate with each other more clearly about the way we’re feeling

I was so lucky. I was there, right on the edge – ready to cut myself away from everything I’d ever known – and all it took to lead me through that awful moment was the sound of a woodpecker echoing in the woods and the warmth of Sunshine on my face.

If I hadn’t heard that bird or felt that glow, I’d be dead. I have no doubt about that. I’d have been found, decomposed and nibbled by Bambi’s friends, and someone from my family would have had to try to identify me. I wasn’t thinking straight. I would never have wanted them to suffer that.

But it shouldn’t take such ‘coincidences’ to lead oneself away from the brink. I shouldn’t have been in those woods. I shouldn’t have walked to the brink in the first place. I should have talked to someone.

And I think that has to be emphasised… it has to be the responsibility of the person who is buckling under that pressure to talk to others, to ask for help.

Robbie Savage
I saw a tweet from Robbie Savage – a close friend of Gary’s – saying he spoke to him yesterday, and asking: “Why? Why? Why?”

Robbie – along with everyone else close to Gary – is going to be shredding himself, wondering what he could have done to prevent this heart-breaking news; what he feels he should have done to bring his mate back to calmer waters…

But when someone is smiling and laughing with you the day earlier, how could you gauge from that the desperation that must have been grinding him within?

I wonder how long it would have taken for Robbie to reach Gary’s side if Gary had have picked up the phone and said: “I need help. I feel suicidal. I’m serious. Will you help me?” Of course he would have been there for his friend.

We have to call for help when we need help. We can’t sit screaming in our minds and expect others to understand us if we don’t express ourselves and our feelings, especially not when we’ve got a smile on our face and we’re doing our best to project a false veneer that everything is okay.

Tragically, many of us can’t do this. We’re afraid to show our weakness, even to those we love the most. We’re conditioned by society to hide our emotions from the rest of the world – particularly men, and that’s probably the reason why suicide is three or four times more common in men than women.

Society decrees that men are meant to be strong, to not expose their weakness, and that causes a catastrophic internalisation of problems; a looped amplification of negative thought that you can’t find a way of venting. So, it builds up and builds up and builds up until that moment of cataclysm, when you rupture from the pressure…

… but there is such a great strength in admitting weakness and looking for ways to build stronger. I wish everyone – every man, woman and child who ever considers suicide – would see that and know it to be true.

People will help you through your darkest days. That’s what we do. That’s why we love you. All you have to do is let us know, and we’ll be there.

If I had been more eloquent in my video blog from the woods, I would have perhaps said:

“Don’t hang yourself, because look what can happen if you just get through the darkness of that moment? Look how much life I’ve lived since that time; how truly happy I am now? Don’t hang yourself. Don’t hurt yourself. Love yourself. Love your life. Ask for help. Live. Live. Live.”

Here's the blog about my experience on the edge of suicide: 


  1. RIP Gary Speed. Les, your blog is, as always, profound. I have been to that dark place too. I too, am very glad to be here today. Asking for help is hard but we all need to learn to do it!

  2. Thanks for posting this. I agree completely. I wish I had admitted that depression is a real illness, not a weakness and not something to be ashamed of. I wish I'd had more courage and asked for help sooner and that by doing so I wasn't letting anyone down. I went further down the road than I needed to and therefore it's been/is a longer journey back thank it might have been.
    One small thing I can take comfort from today is that Gary Speed and Stan Collymore (who's blogpost on depression was written in the early hours of Saturday morning) are not dismissed as 'bonkers' as Frank Bruno initially was by The Sun when he was hospitalised just over 8 years ago. Society's moved on quite a bit, not enough, but I hope we're on the right track.

  3. I asked for help and got it. I still need help from time to time, and I know who I can go to. Some people ask for help only to be laughed at, or told not to be ridiculous. They're called cowards to their faces. Sometimes death seems a lot less frightening than the prospect of living another day. But, as you said the other day, death is always there, waiting at the end, so you might as well live until you get there naturally.

    Thanks for your posts.

  4. So true, Les. I had one of those dark moments where I doubted I could call on anyone. Terrified of myself and what I would do, I picked up the phone in desperation and made that call. The person I called came running, calling me every few minutes to make sure I was okay. I truely believe that person saved my life that night. I now cherish each moment that I live, and those who I love.

    It is so, so sad to me that people like Gary did not find that help they needed in that moment. It is so hard to see,when you cannot think straight, that there are many people who love you and would be there for you.

    My thoughts and prayers go out to his friends and family. RIP Gary

  5. Beautifully said. I have nothing to add.

  6. True. If only... that is all the family & loved ones of the person who is gone can say. We can never erase the past. And never fully understand why. Haunting. Leaves an awful emptiness.

  7. Les,

    "There’s nothing cowardly about suicide, and there’s nothing courageous about it, either."

    No one can be so eloquent in so few words as you. Thank you for always leading with compassion - for those gone and those left behind to deal with the loss.


  8. Thank you, Cat. It's such a tough thing to ask for help, but also such an easy thing to do. We just need to do it.

  9. Thanks, Helen. I'm glad things are better for you, now. And thanks for pointing me to Stan Collymore's blog. Powerful stuff.

  10. Thanks, Marian. I think more often than not, cries for help are heard with empathy and help will come.

  11. Beautiful words, Ash. I'm so glad you called out and that help came running.

  12. Thank you, lovely Eden. xoxox

  13. Yes, Scorpion... it's a terrible loss.

  14. As a positive individual I can never understand how someone can get that low they would take their own life. Your blog has informed and moved me and given me more empathy. Thanks again for your thought provoking words. As a Welsh person yesterday's news was like a punch in the stomach, I was shopping in Cardiff at the time and heard the news on Facebook. It literally shook my world to think that someone with everything going for them felt that death was the only option. His family must be devastated and confused and I hope to God they can find peace! God bless them and hope Gary is happy on the other side.

  15. Gareth Farmer @gazzle7128 November 2011 at 07:49

    A very deep and empathic blog Les. I know of the dark place, the word 'dark' is an understatement as you no doubt know. I now live in a colourful world and have excepted that 'black' is also a colour of the spectrum of colour. In life we experience many different changes, and I am thankful of all the experiences in mine (yes even the dark ones) because they mean I have a life in which I can experience these transitions of mood and feelings, the darlk times make me thankful for the colourful ones, and the colourful times help me through the dark ones.

  16. This is beautifully put Les. I have no connection with Gary other than as fan and admirer but I am hurting inside. Depression is a horrible and much maligned illness. If we all had better awareness and understanding the world would be a better place

  17. My heart truly goes out to his wife and children. And of course any other loved ones that he left behind. My heart also goes out to him. He must have been in tremendous pain to do this and obviously felt there was no other way out. So so very sad.

  18. Suicide is the ultimate selfish act but you always hear the phrase "while the balance of the mind was disturbed" and that's the point.

    I have personal experience of a suicide and the person that did it would never have caused the grief that they did to the people they loved most of all under "normal" circumstances.

    For the duration of their life they were not selfish or cowardly but something forced them into an act that was.

  19. I'm sorry, but I'm extremely irritated by this post. I have also 'been to the edge' & I'm not far off being there now.
    Often it's not for the want of talking to people that depression sweeps someone away. You can go for help, ask for it, try to talk to people & still find no relief. Health professionals would rather dish out pills than therapy & you don't have the strength to actively keep trying. You get put on a list and forgotten about which is more soul destroying than anything.
    If depression could be solved by woodpeckers and warm sunshine, that would be great, but when I read that, all I see an epiphany inside you. A moment of clarity. If you had been where Gary Speed & so many of us are, no amount of nature would have touched you.
    Yes, we all have to ask for help. I can't speak for Gary Speed, but when you've repeatedly asked for help & received none. Then what? When all your friends say the same things that makes no connection...then what?
    I doubt you contemplated suicide. You may have glanced at the thought & said 'I don't want to be here' but I'm talking about the actual planning. The reason no one knew he was that low was because he was pleased on that last day. His planning was done & the time when the despair could end was approaching. No dread any more, just the possibility of peace from the clouds that fog your life.
    I realise most people love your posts, but your thoughts on depression are flagrantly trivial. I saw the one you deleted before & it made me so angry & I wasn't the only one. Was it deleted because you hated it or was it deleted because you didn't receive the usual fawning from readers? I wonder.
    Everything that is written has an impact. Remember that.
    I don't think your views are helpful...they merely skim the surface of a very deep pond

  20. I had an American actor friend in the Seventies by the name of Pete Duel.

    He was enjoying a period of success in a TV series called "Alias Smith and Jones" and his film career was just taking off. He should have been enjoying life to it's fullest and reveling in his personal success. But he was overwhelmed by inner demons compounded by addiction problems and a court matter. This kind, caring, lovely and very talented and successful man finally succumbed to these demons on 31st January 1971 when he took his own life in Hollywood.

    We all battle those inner demons to a greater or lesser extent and it is how we deal with them that separates us from those who are overwhelmed.

    There but for the grace of God.

    RIP Pete and Gary.

  21. Hi James - yes, I remember that programme, and I just had a 'flashback' to my dad telling me that one of them had died. That's so sad.

  22. Annie, if my posts have made you angry before, why would you continue reading them?

    I write from the perspective of my own experience and put forward ideas that I hope will help people, because I don't want them to go through the same living hell.

    You can dismiss my experiences, if you wish - that is your choice - but I am happy, now, after more than 20 years experience of often crushing depression.

    Do you think I should stay silent about that, or try my best to help others change their own lives?

    I would help you. Email me, if you wish:

    That is some serious negative energy you're spewing out. It's not helping you if you choose to seek out things to be angry about.

    You misunderstand me, I think, deliberately.

    I am prepared to try to help you, to give you my time, and I will do that gladly.

    However, if you just want to shout at me, I suggest you stop reading my words. It would be a step towards removing these catalysts of rage from your life, which can only lead to a more peaceful life for you.

    Contact me, if you wish.

  23. Hi Anon - I'm a bit uncomfortable about the term 'ultimate selfish act' because I think we get so lost that we don't realise that at all... but you're right, yes, there has to be a disbalance of mind to reach such a low. I'm really sorry to hear about your friend.

  24. Chris, thank you so much for the comment and I'm thankful I've helped open your heart a little on this subject. I regard myself as a very positive person, now, and it baffles me at times to think I was so low and couldn't climb out of it under my own strength. Yesterday's news was awful.

  25. Wise words, Gareth. I'm pleased things are better for you and you've developed that balance of perspective. :-)

  26. Thank you, Blackrod. Awareness is key, yes. Although yesterday's news is a tragedy, I hope that it can help others to reach out and speak out before their own pressure reaches rupture point.

  27. Yes, Gail - he must have been ripping himself up inside. It's so sad, and I feel for his family and friends, too. It's going to be so hard for them to try to make sense of this.

  28. Hi there,

    Well written. Depression is a terrible illness. People need to recognise it as that. There is still a lack of understanding of this disease. Just because he was successful or had plenty of money. He is human like the rest of us and Depression can affect anyone. God bless you Gary Speed ;)

  29. Yes, it's an indiscriminate blight. RIP Gary

  30. Hi Les,

    Read your post twice now. I agree with you comletely on the fact we (still) are not encouraged to express negative feelings we might have... A lot of friends we have are not really waiting for us to sit down at dinnerparties to discuss why we feel depressed or sad... They want to hear happy stories and laughter... Pictures are taken of happy moments in life, never of sad times... Which says a lot about the state of the society we live in. I used to have a friend in the UK who had been unhappy for years, started to talk about his feelings to me but couldn't tell his wife (who you might expect to be closest to him in life) about his unhappiness cause she always hushed him, afraid of what people would think if ever any of these bad feelings became public, associating it with 'craziness'.
    This is just sad... In the saddest sort of way... 'What people think' so keeping up appearance, as opposed to helping your loved one in the'for better or for worse way'...
    Getting your message out there Les, and being there for people who feel bad, will help a lot of people tremendously... I agree... There needs to be more openness about suicide. It is just as much part of this society as cancer, or any happy celebration, to give a few examples.

    I do not believe however that a 100% prevention will ever be possible though... Watching people having to deal with loss through suicide over the years and having to deal with such loss myself has made me understand that some people can shift from extrememy happy to extremely unhappy in seconds, therefore making it very difficult for their environment as well as themselves to even realise things might be out of balance in a life threatening way.
    I do agree with you though that knowledge of this can bring awareness to possible relatives of such individuals... But if that will eventually prevent it from happening 100% I'm not so sure.
    Suicide... A dark diamond with many facets... Difficult phenomenon to grasp...


  31. Thank you, Nathalie! It would be wonderful to have 100% prevention, yes, but I agree that it's unlikely to happen. Saying that suicide is 100% preventable, I believe is true, because it's something that the person has to engage directly in... so, it's not as random as being hit by a drunken driver, or being diagnosed with terminal cancer. However, I understand that it's a complex question and though I have my own experience, I'm far away from having all the answers - and people have to find and choose their own answers, not have opinions forced on them.

  32. Oh, Annie, I'm so sorry that trying to communicate isn't working for you! Are your friends not listening, or are their words of support not helping? Having made a couple of Happy Little Plans, I know how it feels to have relief within my grasp. Fortunately, I know other people who have also been in that place, and I could go to them and know their words made sense, whether I felt it or not.

    I did go to a therapist, and I did go to a doctor, both of whom were thoughtful, intensely caring women. I needed people I could trust until I could trust myself again, and I was so lucky to be surrounded by people like that. It was luck, pure and simple.

    Since then, I've found Band Back Together , a site for people who aren't lucky enough to be surrounded by a safety net that works. Please connect there.


  33. As eloquent and thoughtful as ever, Les. Having experienced the loss of a family member to depression, I know some of the extremes of opinion that exist - I myself thought for years that suicide was the ultimate selfish act. Only losing my uncle changed that for me, although seeing the effect of his loss on the rest of the family did at times make me want to curse his actions. Now I feel nothing but sorrow for the misery and pain that must have brought him to such a decision, and can only begin to imagine how terrific this must have been for Gary, who seemingly "had it all". My thoughts are with his family and friends, may they be allowed to grieve for him in peace and come to terms with events as best they can. A terrible time for all concerned, I know this too well.

  34. Wonderful words as ever :) So many people hide their pain and their sadness and troubles behind a mask. Too many of us think we must be strong, we must not admit we are sometimes weak, lost and in need of someone to help us through this. I think this is especially true for men, this idea of being the strong one. I can't even begin to imagine what his family are going through right now. This was a path I nearly took once, but thankfully I was able to tell someone how I was feeling and it saved my life.

    My thoughts are with his family and all those close to him and I hope they are left in peace to grieve for him

  35. My wife suffers from depression. I always thought it was a label, but after 30 years with her, I know different. I like to think she's lucky. She has me and I'm one of life's eternal optimists. I can't "cure" her but I can help when the demons threaten to overpower her.

    She's never been suicidal, so I cannot imagine that torture Gary Speed must have endured to bring him to the end.

    I'm football crazy, and like so many others, my thoughts are with his family, but I want to thank you for the insight in your piece.


  36. I'm glad I found your blog. Your words are so true. And I know this from the other side. My 27-year-old son took his life 12 years ago as a result of his bipolar disorder, and our family will never get over it. Now my mission is to educate, erase the stigma of mental health and suicide, and hopefully save some lives. I've written a memoir about it, Leaving the Hall Light On, I have a blog,, and speak about writing as a way of healing and surviving after a loved one's suicide. I also volunteer for a powerful FB page called Putting a Face on Suicide.
    Please connect with me sometime. I think we have lots to discuss.
    Thank you for sharing your very intimate thoughts. Being open about it is the only way we can help. Madeline

  37. Lovely of you to offer advice, Marian! :-)

  38. Thanks, MsCheek. I think we have to extend empathy to anyone who finds themselves in such a desperate situation, and - if the worst does happen - pour forgiveness on their memory. It's not a decision taken lightly.

    I hope the current inquiry into the UK press goes some way to preventing any intrusion on Gary's family as they grieve. :-(

  39. I'm glad you made it through, Sarah - hopefully a little stronger and more in love with life than before?

    Yes, with the furore from phone hacking and press intrusion very close to mind, I hope they are left alone at a truly awful time.

  40. My admiration to you, David. Sticking by someone with depression can be such a tough thing to do - that's a grand display of love. I hope you're both doing okay at the moment.

    Thank you for reading and for commenting! :-)

  41. Les ~ Unfortunately, the topic of suicide has come up quite often this year (in social media and the sports field in particular) Suicide leaves so many unanswered questions, so many left wondering what they could have done..."If only I would have reached out, and reached in." (The common theme)

    My wife is bipolar and suffers from clinical depression. Several years ago, she attempted suicide and I too was faced with those questions. A couple of years in to our marriage and about a year after our first child was born is when her depression(s) became quite severe. I remember her laying in bed, talking about not wanting to go on and I would lay with her, hold her and pray for the answers. I would remind her of all the good in her life and would become frustrated when she would relapse. Through years of experimenting with differing medications and therapy, my wife has now found balance and peace within herself, but those early years of discovery were really quite a challenge.

    We all get depressed or disappointed with life from time to time, but folks with bipolar / clinical depression need to seek professional help...If the chemicals in our mind are not balanced properly, there are no words or hugs that will suddenly whack them into place.

    I'm glad you made it through your dark period.
    I'm looking forward to learning more as I just recently discovered your blog.

    Best, John

  42. You're a talented writer and i'm proud of you Uncle x

  43. Great post. I haven't read all the replies, but i want to pick up on the idea of suicide being the ultimate selfish act. My brother was 42, had two small boys, like Gary Speed, when he hung himself . I know some of why he did it and the odd thing is, I think he thought it was the best thing for everyone. Not selfish, not brave either, but as Annie says, in a place of despair when he wanted the dark clouds gone for good. I might disagree with him and feel angry for the hurt it caused everyone, but that's pointless. I think there are many reasons people don't or can't get the right help for whatever their demons are; sometimes society isn't ready to hear about the demons, they can be, by nature, pretty ugly. I don't have an answer, there isn't one, other than some general wish that we could all judge less, listen more and remember that life is very, very complicated.

  44. This is a well written, knowledgeable post and I am so very glad that you are here to write it.

    I feel so sorry for Gary Speed's friends and family, and for anyone else in their situation. It must be so horrible for anyone who is left behind in this way.

    It is so sad he couldn't get the help he obviously needed.

  45. Thank you for this post. It is a real eyeopener, and it hits home as well. I am one of those people that no one ever knows if something is wrong. Not because i think I am superwomen, its because i find it hard to go and open myself up to someone , even to a family member.
    I can smile laugh and have fun and cry inside.
    I my heart gos out to Gary's family, and to him as well, b/c I know how it feels to pretend everything is great , and being absolutely miserable inside. It is a double life and it is certainly hard to maintain it.

  46. it is the asking for help that is the hardest part, much easier not to ask for help

    this is a great blog

  47. There is little can be added to all you've said and all that your followers have responded with, except to say that someone very close to me did ask for help and we gave it to him in spades. He is still with us today, thank heaven.

    Very honest writing, Les. Thanks for sharing this.

  48. Thank you for re-posting this on twitter. I have a hard time having compassion for spirits when they came to me for help when they end their lives here in this realm because of an act of the ego. My reality is different. I see death differently. I have seen people who ended their lives and have been reborn because they didn't set out what they was suppose to do in their lifetime when they was here. It's sad but when one door closes another one always opens. People just have to remember to turn around. Thank you for re-posting this Les I have a message to give!

  49. Thank you for re-posting this on Twitter Les, it takes a lot of courage for somebody to commit suicide, my brother made an attempt to commit suicide, put a knife through his neck and just missed the carotid artery! He survived however, he is a lost soul! Its not something that I have managed to come to terms with, and am unable to speak about it without being reduced to tears! I feel for Gary's family and anyone else who may find themselves in this position. I do not believe that suicide is the coward's way out I believe it to be the last resort to a troubled mind!

  50. Have come close many times, being Bipolar and having Asperger's, but my doctor was there for me when I called and the sound of his calm voice always stopped me-- often even when my husband couldn't.

    Now I see suicide as futile because I believe in reincarnation and see I would just have to come back and learn the same damn lessons all over again. So it does not end the pain.

    Thanks for writing about this very important topic and so very, very happy you made it out of the woods. A woodpecker can do it.

  51. Very powerful and thought provoking. Suicide touched my life in various ways when I was much younger and there is always an empty space that can't be filled.

  52. I, too, have attempted suicide. I did reach out: to friends, family, coworkers, therapists, drs, religion, etc. I have Bipolar Disorder with Severe Treatment Resistant Depression. I didn't know that then. Nobody saw it coming. If a friend hadn't chanced by and rushed me to the ER, I'd be dead. That wasn't the end of my attempts and I've been on so many meds, I'd have to write a novel to tell them. I've had several different kinds of therapy. I've thought about it every day of my life for 15 years. Bipolar Disorder has a 75% Fatality Rate. I stay on my meds faithfully.

    For those who see it as selfish, please read this. I thought of myself as a big problem and aggravation to EVERYONE in my life. I was endlessly depressed. I thought ALL people in my life would be SO MUCH better off if I were gone. It would free them from the constant worry about me. I wasn't thinking of being selfish. I was scared, as I didn't know where I would end up once I was dead. No one does, as the dead don't tell us. I just needed to STOP being such a BURDEN to all the people I loved. Desperately.

    I lost my best friend to suicide last November. We talked about my experiences, my problems, my rape, my going blind, my failed marriages. He KNEW beyond all doubts that I was there for him. Our last words were 'I love you' and I am thankful for that. However, now I see the extreme suffering it leaves behind. I ache every day just as badly as I did the day I found out. I think of that everytime I think I should end it all. If people spoke up MORE of their Suicide Ideations and Suicide Attempts, I think some of the stigma would drop and perhaps more would be saved. I've checked myself into private psychiatric hospitals when I just KNEW I couldn't control it anymore. I do whatever it takes to stop myself. More people need to hear that. You must NEVER exhaust your options. I've even called the National Suicide Hotline when I needed someone, and nobody was available to me. Some of us do NOT have a good support system. There are as many bad therapists, psychiatrists and medications as there are good. You have to be very aware of yourself at all times. It's actually a very selfish disease, as you must do whatever it takes to keep yourself alive. That in itself is upsetting, but necessary.

    I would have given my life to save my best friend. If he'd only given me the chance. He chose his path, now I must find forgiveness and move on. Somehow...

    Thank you for bringing up this very stigmatized topic, Les.

  53. Hi Les,

    In 1992 one of my best friends committed suicide. To say none of us saw it coming was an understatement. He was the life and soul of any party, part of a football team, had a long-term partner etc. Nothing seemed to be 'wrong'.

    It was the first funeral I attended (I'd been lucky up to that point I guess) and there I was standing on the edge of the grave of a 22 year old holding a cord. It is an event that has affected me deeply ever since.

    I did find out a version of 'why?' a few months later. It seemed plausible and in keeping with his character. In the end, pride and his public persona drove him to make a terrible decision. He didn't reach out to anyone and he didn't leave a note. It seemed his despair engulfed him quickly and he acted decisively.

    I have spent many hours wondering what any of us could have done to prevent it but I have never considered him selfish or weak. I still miss him terribly. For the past few years some friends have played a memorial football match on the anniversary of his death and no-one ever runs him down or has a go about weakness or whatever. This always heartens me.

    People can be quick to judge and condemn. As I've got older I've learnt that compassion and an open mind are far better tools for dealing with the world than hatred, anger and frustration.

    It's a tough subject to deal with and good on you for doing so.

    All the best, Peter

  54. RIP Gary and I am sorry you didn't know it was alright to tell someone you were hurting so bad.
    Les-as usual, your article about suicide is powerful.The fact you've been there, in that dark moment, is what makes you stop and listen to your every word here. I am so glad you heard that bird Les. You are helping so many people with your blog. Thanks for again for sharing your story with us.

  55. This is an intensely personal subject, which is obvious from everyone's comments.

    For close to seven months, I have been struggling with this myself, as you probably know if you've been reading my blogs. This isn't the first time in my life I've felt like this either. I think it goes with the territory when you've survived as much as I have.

    Sometimes, Les, there is no one to reach out to. Maybe your friends are too self absorbed, or maybe their facing their own demons. Maybe you don't have health insurance and are destitute. Maybe you are just frigging tired of talking about your feelings.

    I disagree with a couple of things that you said. I think that it takes a great deal of courage to commit suicide. It's misguided courage to be sure, but the fact remains that it takes balls to carry it off successfully.

    I also disagree with the idea that talking to someone always works. I've talked with various people about how I'm feeling and honestly, it just makes me feel more isolated. I believe that there is not one-size-fits-all remedy. I think that each person who fights this battle has to find their own way through it. Sometimes I think you have to talk yourself out of it. That's what I do, and I pray ALL THE TIME.

    Thanks for starting this important dialogue, dear. And for what it's worth, I think you were too harsh with Annie.

  56. Fantastic, Les. I'll be sharing this.

  57. I need to say more....

    I've been there, on that edge, looking over it, or driving by it as it was in my case. Since I posted my story:

    Someone made a comment that struck me...I said what if I'd said just drive (as in off the cliff), but she said the morale is just TO drive; drive through the pain, drive through the struggle, by all means please seek help, but unless you plod along through life, despite the darkness it sometimes delivers, however will you know that the next corner might just look a lot brighter than the last, or maybe just a little brighter, but every turn has the potential to be beautiful...has the potential for a woodpecker to call in the distance, or for the warm glow of the sun to land on your face, and for you to be present; to experience it.
    And please research the link between depression and gluten intolerance. Recognizing this can be a life-altering breakthrough for many.

  58. I went on a course, First Aid in Mental Health. It was about seeing the signs and asking the questions. It was a surprise to me that if we have any idea that someone is contemplating killing themselves then we have to actually bring up the topic. It will not make someone do it if they are not thinking about it, and it may help someone who is contemplating it.