Exploiting Gary Speed’s Death: How Many Footballers Will Die?
WE do not know why former Leeds United footballer and Wales manager Gary Speed died. The coroner has yet to rule that it was suicide. Yet the Daily Star manages to produce a front-page headline that warns:
SPEED: FIVE MORE FOOTIE STARS ON BRINK
On brink of what?
Jerry Lawton has news:
TEN top footballers have begged for help fighting depression following Gary Speed’s shock suicide.
First up: we do not know that Gary Speed suffered from depression. Unless a medic who was prescribing him treatment steps forward, or Speed’s wife choses to say something, we never will. We don’t need to know. We are nosy and curious. But knowing is none of our business. Secondly, Lawton’s opening line makes it sound as if the root of the ten footballer’s depression is Gary Speed’s suicide.
The desperate stars contacted Tony Adams’ Sporting Chance Clinic after the Wales manager was found dead at his £2million mansion.
Gary Speed drove them to it? The players, who have not been named, complained they had been secretly struggling to cope with the pressures and stress of the game at the highest level.
So. Speed’s death did not make them suicidally depressed. Is it that their work, in this case football, making the 10 grown men suicidally depressed? But how do we know there are “ten top footballers” battling mental illness? How do we know they have “begged” for help.
Last night the Professional Footballers’ Association revealed the 10 could be just the tip of the iceberg. They fear that many more are too scared to come forward in case their problems are exposed to team-mates, rivals and fans.
And headlines like “FIVE MORE FOOTIE STARS ON BRINK” are bound to help.
It turns out that the story is based on the words of Peter Kay, “chief executive of the clinic for sportsmen and women set up by former Arsenal and England defender Adams, 45“.
The BBC explains why that clinic was set up:
Tony Adams had a very public battle with alcoholism during his playing career, following which he founded the Sporting Chance Clinic to help fellow sportsmen through similar crises.
Only the Sporting Chance Clinic does not specialise in depression. Nowhere on its website does the word “depression” get a mention.
The Sporting Chance website does say:
We believe that education and training are a vital part of our holistic view on addiction and its treatment. By making the relevant information available we hope to help an individual take an honest look at their behaviour and make informed choices as to their situation. When describing ‘substances’ or ‘drug of choice’ we are referring to alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, food or co-dependent relationships. We consider all of these to come under the addiction umbrella.
It’s a place that specifically caters for sportsmen and women suffering from addiction.
Sporting Chance Clinic has created a specialised environment where men and women from all standards of sport can come and address various issues in their lives. We treat each person as an individual with unique problems and difficulties.
As our residential programmes don’t take more than four people at a time, we are able to give people the attention and understanding they need. The programme is demanding and intensive, yet at the same time supportive and nurturing.
Sadly, the Star says “FIVE” are ” ON THE BRINK” One will have to miss out. Eenie, meenie, miny…
Our experienced and dedicated team endeavour to help our clients to understand, accept and deal with the problems they are facing. Our aim is to enable and empower our clients to develop new habits and make lasting changes in their lives. We recognise that an individual’s addictions or other destructive behaviours will have had a negative effect on their families, loved ones and employers. Therefore we seek to involve those close to the client in the recovery process wherever possible and provide additional levels of support where needed.
Sporting Chance Clinic utilises a house and cottage within the grounds of Forest Mere, quiet and secluded from the main resort complex. Our clients have the privacy and safety of the clinic and at the same time are able to use the main complex for gym work, swimming and spa facilities. We also benefit from eating at the award winning Champneys restaurant where the food complies with our nutritional beliefs.
These factors all contribute to Sporting Chance Clinic’s ethos of a holistic recovery for mind, body and soul.
Back in the Daily Star, Peter Kay is quoted thus:
“Over 10 players have contacted me since that news broke. That means 10 people are seeking help. That is an unusual amount.”
Can it be that Gary Speed’s death is now marketing opportunity? Should not the 10 players reaching out for help be treated in private? Why tell the media about it?
“It is fair to say Gary’s death has prompted them to ask for help. Actually admitting you need help is one of the hardest and bravest decisions to make, and at the clinic we will do all we can to try to get their lives back together.”
A hard and brave decision that makes it to the front-page of a tabloid.
Publicity for an illness can help a sufferer. It can reassure them that they are not alone, however isolated they feel. But not everyone wants to be a cause celebre.
Mr Kay said fans need to change the way they perceive their sporting heroes, as fame and fortune does not necessarily equate to happiness and harmony.
Change the words “sporting heroes” to “businessmen”, “City traders”, “doctors”, “TV presenters’, “green grocers”, “shelf stacker”, “journalists” or anything, and you have your story. Hey, get this – some “fans” may suffer from depression. They might not be happy or live in harmony. Depression is an illness. Mental illness is misunderstood and often ridiculed. It’s not feeling low. It’s not having an off day. It is debilitating and hideous. To say that fans “need to change the way they perceive their sporting heroes” is patronising and stupid. It places the players’ on a pedestal of a different kind. They are not like you. They are special.
And there’s no evidence that sporting heroes are more prone to depression than non-sportsmen. How many people who cannot hold down a job are clinically depressed? The job is not the problem – the illness is.
Kay does say:
“Stan Collymore came out and said he suffered from depression some years ago. His then manager John Gregory went on record to say: ‘How could he be depressed on £20,000 a week?’ You can suffer from mental illness if you are a dustman on £200 a week or a footballer on £200,000 a week. There is no difference. Football players are like all human beings, flawed like the rest of us. What Gregory was displaying was the dinosaur attitude which was still around back then.”
You may recall that when the Rangers goalkeeper Andy Goram was, reportedly, getting treatment for mild schizophrenia, the Dundee crowd sang: “Two Andy Gorams, there’s only two Andy Gorams …”
Dinosaurs can be witty.
Mr Kay is billed on the Sporting Chance website:
Peter began life as a highly acclaimed professional chef, working around the world in Michelin-starred restaurants and achieving great personal success, all achieved whilst in active addiction. He nearly lost his life to addiction and only became fully aware of his problems after waking from a twenty-one day coma. Prolonged drug and alcohol addiction caused two cardiac arrests, collapsed lungs, kidney failure and the loss of 2/3 of his pancreas. As in Tony Adam’s case, most people did not understand the scale of Peter’s problem, nor did he have any idea where to turn. Eventually he sought help through a Twelve Step programme and has remained clean and sober since 1992. Through a long period of convalescence, Peter resolved to study the reasons his body had been so severely damaged through alcohol and other drugs, resulting in his putting together a seminar on alcohol and drug awareness, which now forms the basis of our Preventative Educational work. Peter has a high level of expertise in this field through his work as a board member for Alcohol Services in Richmond and through his involvement working in prisons via the RAPT programme. He has also developed processes and skills acquired through The Mankind Project where he is a senior facilitator. In 2003 Tony Adams decided to appoint Peter as Chief Executive for the Sporting Chance Clinic, and he is committed to promoting its work among all sporting bodies as well as within football.
There is no mention of depression or mental illness in that bio.
And – lest we get away from the story’s theme: we do not know that Gary Speed was suffered from depression.
Last night Professional Footballers’ Association chief Gordon Taylor, 66, spoke about the death of dad-of-two Speed, 42. He said: “It has brought into people’s minds the problems footballers have to deal with. I want people to know there is a support and counselling system there because we want to do all we can to prevent things like this happening again.’’
How can you prevent something happening that you cannot explain?
The message is confused.
Kay says at least 10 footballers have contacted him – that’s the headline – and then adds that anyone can suffer. This is followed by Taylor telling readers that footballers have a unique set of issues to tackle. The pressure at work can get to them. But depression, suicidal, crippling depression, can be hereditary. It can be part of your make-up, like any illness. The depressive will not find happiness nor contentment because they can’t. They are physically incapable.
To discuss this, the Daily Star and Sporting Chance do not need to use Gary Speed. You do not need to patronise the man and explain his thoughts. You can leave him alone. If you want to know more, you can see your doctor.
But the chances are that if you suffer from depression, you won’t seek help. A loved one wil – if you’re lucky enough to have one…