The silent killer

Today, the footballing world was shocked and horrified to hear that Gary Speed was found dead at his home after hanging himself to death.  Police have confirmed that a 42-year-old man had been found dead and identified as Speed by his next-of-kin.

One of the reasons that everyone has been so stunned by his death is there were no indicators of a problem before his death.  He appeared on Sky Sports yesterday (I saw him and can’t quite get my head round it) and was celebrating with his friend Robbie Savage on the set of Strictly Come Dancing only a couple of weeks ago.

My heart goes out to his family, especially his wife and two sons.  Losing a family member at all is a hideous thing to go through but under these circumstances, it is inconceivable how a family can process and work their way through such a tragedy.

I have said before that I have suffered from depression and I’m not afraid or ashamed of admitting that there was a point where I came very close to carrying out the same act.  I remember carrying my cats around my flat telling them that my parents would look after them.  I remember making plans which stretched from stealing a family friend’s shotgun to overdosing to crashing my car to using it to gas myself.  The scary thing is at some of the points where I seriously entertained those plans, I was the only person who knew how ill I was.  I was at work and by and a fully functional member of society.  In reality I was suffering from very severe depression.

We have become much more accustomed to people talking of depression and the fact that up to one in every eight people is suffering from some sort of mental illness at any given time.  There is a perception that through antidepressants and a bit of therapy this illness can be cured.  And in a lot of cases a six month course od antidepressants and cognitive behavioural therapy is what is needed.  But when help is not available or a person cannot make use of it for whatever reason, the results can be catastrophic.

What people fail to see is that depression is an illness that kills. It is the biggest killer of young men between 25 and 34 years of age other than car accidents.  And yet we hear very little about that side of depression.  We do not hear about the depression that does not lift with medication or when therapy fails.  It is only when a tragedy occurs that we begin to wonder what drives a successful man with a family to kill himself.

So please, if you start to think about how best to take your own life, go to a doctor. There is no shame is depression; it is an illness, an error in a chemical in your brain.  It is not a sign of weakness. A long time ago my father told me that asking for help when you need it is a sign of strength rather than weakness and I beg all of you to remember that.

You will all know someone with depression.  They may never have told you but they will be there.  Support them, be there for them and maybe we can avoid some of the repeats of the tragedy that has happened today.

Average Josephine x

Remember, remember the month of Movember

Well, it’s the end of November and if you look around on the streets you can see something that wasn’t there a month ago.

Moustaches.  Everywhere you look.

And it isn’t some random new trend because come December 1st they will most likely be gone and clean-shaven faces will reign supreme once more.  No, the reason for the return to the seventies ‘tache is Movember, a campaign to raise both awareness and funds for men’s health and, in particular, prostate cancer and other male cancers.

As a woman, I count myself to be very lucky in that we are educated from quite a young age about breast cancer and the importance of checking regularly for any changes in our breasts.  Breast cancer is a very hot topic with a number of high-profile sufferers such as Kylie Minogue and whilst the other female cancers are not as well publicised, they seem to be better publicised than their male equivalents (although having never read Men’s Health or GQ or anything similar, that is purely a female perception).

So Movember is a brilliant innovation as far as I’m concerned as it brings men’s health to the fore and as the boys are wearing the evidence on their faces it’s something that no-one can forget for a month.  I have heard a couple of comments along the lines of “I banned my husband/boyfriend/partner from growing a moustache” and I am so disappointed in what I feel is a really short-sighted perspective.

As a girl I can’t take part in Movember but I am supporting a team of my favourite boys from Birmingham Royal Ballet (were you expecting them to be from anywhere else?!).  Twenty nine members of the company (including one girl oddly enough although quite how Samara is managing her moustache is a bit of a mystery) have teamed up and at my last check had raised a rather fantastic £2,479 as well as having grown some amazing ‘taches!  Check out Oliver Till, Aonghus Hoole, Kit Holder and, for sheer comedy value, the artistic director, Mr. David Bintley whose photos are hysterical (I like the Mahatma and the Clouseau ones myself).

So whether you know anyone who is taking part or not, and if not, feel free to donate the BRB team, I’m sure the boys would appreciate a last-minute boost to the amount they have raised, please go to http://uk.movember.com and donate to what is a really worthy event that has been organised in such a brilliantly fun way.

Average Josephine x