It was good to hear the supporters of Leeds United and Newcastle United join together yesterday for a wonderfully observed minute (or two) of applause and singing to commemorate the life and career of Gary Speed, who passed away five years ago (on 27 November).
He had served both clubs with distinction and it was an enormous shock when the then Wales manager took his own life at the ridiculously young age of 42.
I didn’t know Gary Speed at all, but I still owe him a huge debt of gratitude because the remarkable bravery he showed—both in life and in death—gave me the strength to write openly about some of the struggles I was having around that time, and to reveal that I had suffered from a form of depression for many years.
It was a massive step, but the potential shame and guaranteed embarrassment paled in comparison to the importance of the whole subject of mental health—and the grief felt by family and friends at the loss of a loved one in such tragic circumstances.
I’m not sure it would be right to suggest that blog “changed my life”, but I can say for certain that it made a positive difference to my direction or purpose. I was (and am) incredibly lucky to share my life with Elaine and with her constant love and support, I have spent the past three years doing whatever I can to try and raise awareness and understanding of forms of illness that are often unseen, but potentially so devastating.
The series of challenges that I will continue to undertake has enabled me to tell my story candidly and honestly, to show that it is fine to talk; and just what can be achieved by having the strength to ask for help. I have learned a great deal about myself and my own condition (dysthymia), but along the way I have also been fortunate… actually I’ve been privileged to meet some wonderful and truly inspiring people, whose support has been both humbling and hugely appreciated.
The challenges, the blogs, the talks… these are just my ways of attempting to make just a small difference. Whether I have or ever will I honestly don’t know, but I promise I will keep trying. For now, I just wanted to respectfully dedicate this short article to the memory of Gary Speed; a man who definitely made a difference. Rest peacefully Gary.