Posts Tagged ‘ Gary Speed ’

Salvation For Domestic Celtic Nation Football In League Unification

celticnationsMark Pitman offers a Welsh football perspective to the potential of a Celtic nation amalgamation.

This month the Champions League once again dominated the football headlines as the knock-out stage of UEFA’s flagship competition matched the biggest, best and richest of the European game against each other. Such is the attention and interest demanded by what is now considered football’s leading competition, the Champions League has grown from strength to strength since ditching its European Cup title for a new image and format, while maintaining the silverware traditions of past glorious with what Jose Mourinho refers to as ‘the cup with the big ears’. The escalating profile and riches now associated with the Champions League justify its revamp, but its new-found status was created out of necessity in order to prevent the creation of the European Super League and the breakaway of Europe’s leading clubs. The idea has since been muted, but it remains an underlying threat to the current establishment, and raises its head whenever there is unrest between UEFA and its clubs.  Continue reading

Tragedy Bringing Mental Health Into Focus

Mental Health

Mental Health

With the shocking death last weekend of Gary Speed and the controversy surrounding the suicide of Kate Fitzgerald, our attention has been brought to issues of mental health and suicide.

It is unfortunate that it takes deaths such as these to draw attention to this problem, a problem that happens so frequently yet is rarely ever highlighted.

What people have found so surprising about the death of Speed, a former professional footballer and manager of the Wales national team, is that this is a guy who appeared to have it all. An excellent playing career, emerging managerial career, he was held in high regard by all involved in the game, he had a beautiful wife and family and no major problems that anyone appears to be aware of.

According to the World Health Organisation every year approximately 1million people die from suicide globally, a mortality rate of 1 death every 40 seconds. It is among the top 20 leading causes of death globally for all ages.  It is among the top 3 causes of death among 15 – 34 year olds globally. Take a moment to think about that last statistic, it’s shocking!


That last statistic will be surprising to many people, especially in this country where so much publicity is given to road deaths, yet very little focus is given to a far great killer – suicide. We are constantly told about the number of young people dying on our roads yet nothing about the numbers of young people attempting suicide.

In Ireland at least 520 people took their own lives in 2009, an increase of almost 25 per cent on 2008 and provisional numbers for 2010 are showing a similar figure. The exact figure is hard to pin point as some unexplained deaths are suspected suicides. Also, suicide is still such a taboo subject in Ireland, a country that has such a strong Catholic past where many suicides were covered up so that the victim could receive a full Catholic burial.

Another troubling factor is that suicide seems to be more acute in rural areas where problems are often exacerbated by social isolation. Counties such as Roscommon and Offaly have suicide rates up to twice that of urban counties like Dublin. The issue of suicide in rural areas is one that has been mentioned by County Coroners from Clare, Kerry and Offaly earlier in the year.

Kerry county Coroner, Terence Casey, also raised the issue of a rising rate in the number of suicides among elderly people. In 2009, of the 13 suicides registered in the county 4 were aged 60 and over and 3 were in the 40-50 age group. This adds further weight to the issue of social isolation. It also means cutting funding for carers and home help for the elderly can have disastrous consequences, especially as elderly may also see that home help as a chance for social interaction, especially if their own mobility is limited.

The culture of drinking alcohol in this country needs to come into focus when discussing suicide also. The founder of the Irish Association of Suicidology, Dr John Connolly, has said teenage suicide tends to be a more impulsive act, and that alcohol can lead to an increase in that impulsivity. John’s words are striking and give purpose for us to learn how to help an alcoholic in the family.

Alcohol is implicated in up to 45 per cent of all suicides,” he said. “It blinds people’s judgment and [causes them to] do things that are uncharacteristic and unusual for them. It can increase a person’s depression, which is a big factor in suicide.”

Mental Illness

People say to look out for symptoms but all too often symptoms or tell-tale signs can be hard or impossible to find. As in the case with Gary Speed, as little as 24 hours before his death he had appeared laughing and joking on the BBC’s Football Focus show and had arranged a game of golf with former team-mate Gary McAllister who was also on the show. Nobody noticed any signs of problems or a difference in Speed’s behaviour.

As was posted recently on the website, an organisation that helps young people through tough times and aims to promote mental health,

“Many “experts” would have us believe that suicide warning signs are always there. That we should be watching out for them. But how can we? Life is so unpredictable and so is suicide.”

One mental illness which can hide itself from onlookers is manic depression (bipolar disorder). Symptoms include severe mood swings and repeated episodes of depression. Many are surprised when they hear of certain people diagnosed with this illness as they may have always appeared very happy jovial people. However that outgoing side is the side the public often see, with the darker periods kept for times behind closed doors. This means it’s very hard to encourage someone with this illness to seek the correct help because unless they confide in someone that they have this problem, it can often be near impossible to notice.

The number of people with  bipolar disorder who commit suicide is 60 times higher than in the general population. In Ireland, over 40,000 people have been diagnosed with the illness according to


So what can be done to make a positive change? A 10 year government plan called A Vision For Change had been launched in 2006, however Orla Barry of the Irish Mental Health Coalition believes that the plan has not been implemented to it’s fullest, she said:

The fact that senior executive accountability was never established has been hugely detrimental to implementing the executive policy. The contrast with the progress of the National Cancer Strategy is stark.”

It is important from early on, in our schools, that children are made aware of the places they can turn to like the various websites, phone networks such as the Samaritans or Reachout – a group dedicated to helping young people through tough times. It is also vital that in schools we attempt to remove the non-truths and stigma associated with mental ill-health and mental illness. Most colleges will raise awareness during a mental health week and this is something that should be more widely adopted into society. The country could promote a mental health week nationally, push awareness of the issue in workplaces, newspapers, television and radio adverts.

Fundamentally, the key to making progress in this area is in educating people. Separating fact from fiction. Providing the information and knowledge necessary to help remove stigma, making it easier for people to step forward and look for help or treatment. There are organisations out there attempting to bring about change such as Mental Health Ireland and it is vital that their programmes are adequately promoted and backed so that they can make progress in this area.

It is an incredibly tough time financially for the country and government spending is being cut, however health is a matter worth focusing on and a healthy mind is just as important as good physical health. It is also important that we as individuals attempt to better our approach to this issue as it actually is something that can make a difference in someone’s life by even one person improving their attitude towards mental health.

Suicide Prevention Group Pleads For Funds Not To Be Cut

The IrisIASh Association of Suicidology (IAS) has pleaded with the government to remain true to pre-election promises and not cut vital funding earmarked for aiding the constant battle against suicide in Ireland. The organisation fears that, should next week’s budget include a cut in support, many lives could be placed in danger.

Dr John Connolly, IAS honorary secretary, elucidated the group’s concerns in a letter sent to an Taoiseach Enda Kenny. In the document he notes how the recession and subsequent unemployment has played its part in increasing the suicide rate in this country, stating: “Over the last three years the number of people who have decided to end their own life by suicide has risen dramatically.” Dr Connolly went on to note that the 2011 Programme for Government includes a provision to “ring-fence €35 million annually from within the health budget” for mental health issues, part of which was due to be used to implement the national suicide prevention strategy – Reach Out. He called for the Fine Gael-Labour coalition to ensure this pledge comes to fruition.

He added: “While the Irish people have borne the brunt of austerity measures over the last three years, the impact of these measures on those most vulnerable and at risk of suicide has been reflected in the increase in the number of suicides, deliberate self-harm presentation at A&E and in calls to support help-lines such as the Samaritans.”

Mr Kenny, a vocal supporter of mental health awareness and suicide prevention, has not yet responded to the letter.

Official figures from 2009 show that a total of 527 people were confirmed as dying as a result of suicide that year, up 15% from 2007. However, due to the lengthy wait for coroners’ court verdicts and the mislabelling of other deaths, the genuine figure is believed to be far higher.

The area of suicide prevention was thrust into the spotlight again this week following the tragic and shocking death of Welsh football manager Gary Speed. Waves of disbelief spread throughout the world of sport when his body was discovered early last Sunday morning. Mr Speed had appeared in jovial mood on the BBC’s ‘Football Focus’ TV show mere hours before taking his own life. On the same day, an article was published in The Irish Times discussing Kate Fitzgerald – a 25-year-old woman who committed suicide shortly after submitting an anonymous article to the paper documenting her struggle with depression. At her suggestion, the piece was published on 9 September – the day before World Suicide Prevention Day. Sadly, by this time its writer had killed herself over two weeks previously.

Earlier today, the suicide counselling service Console revealed that over 7,000 adullts traumatised by suicide approached the organisation for help in the first six months of 2011 alone.

A number of support outlets are available for those suffering from depression and other mental health issues as well as for loved ones who wish to support them. Please reach out if you need to – help is available.