I, like many people across the UK, was shocked to hear of the very sad death of the footballer Gary Speed on Sunday.
It appears from reports that, tragically, Gary Speed took his own life.
It took a while for this to sink in as i'd only seen him on BBC's live Football Focus show the previous lunchtime and he appeared to be his normal self. I had to check to make sure that it was actually the same person. Unfortunately, it was.
This news made me pose the question, how could a man that i'd seen, apparently full of life, decide to end that life, at the very young age of 42, just a few hours later?
A possible clue came from a blog post from another ex footballer, Stan Collymore. In this blog post, which was rather scarily written in the early hours of Saturday morning, Stan Collymore speaks about his own struggles with depression.
I have seen it suggested, although i have no way of verifying this, that depression may have been a factor in Gary Speed's death.
Thankfully, i have never knowingly had any contact with depression myself, or with anyone suffering from it. Therefore, i am completely unqualified to talk about it. You only have to read Stan Collymore's blog post to realise how outward appearences can be deceptive and also how misunderstood the condition can be.
So, i will leave that discussion to those who are far more qualified.
On the radio this morning though, during the sports report, they were talking about an annual sports book prize, that is being awarded today. Coincidently, one of the books shortlisted is a biography of the German footballer, Robert Enke, who also took his own life, due to depression, in 2009.
(Update: The book about Robert Enke, "A Life Too Short" by Ronald Reng, won the William Hill Sports Book Of The Year Award for 2011)
During the course of the conversation it was suggested that sad and tragic events might be easier to write about than happier ones. This was not meant, in any way, to lessen the nature of the stories. But, this reminded me of another discussion i had heard recently about a completely unrelated subject, music.
Some of the best and most effective music you will ever hear, is written around sad circumstances.
The Blues is called that for a very good reason and where would Country music be without sadness and loss? There is that often told joke about playing a Country song backwards and everything becoming right with the world once again.
So often, it is those songs about love, loss and sadness that affect us the most. Possibly because we can all relate to them at some level?
I'm sure that you can think of your own examples. But, i'll give you some of my own.
For example, The Smiths built a whole career around the often bleak lyrics written by Morrissey.
The singer/songwriter John Martyn, who had many issues of his own, often wrote songs about the sad side of life, until his own untimely death in 2009.
A personal favourite musician of mine, Nick Drake also took his own life because of depression, way back in 1974. Nick Drake even wrote a song called "Black Eyed Dog", which contains lyrics all about the so called 'Black Dog', an often used expression used to describe depression.
The song contains the words, "A black eyed dog he called at my door...... A black eyed door he knew my name".
And how can you leave off of this list, possibly the grandaddy of them all, Leonard Cohen?
Winston Churchill, often thought of as the greatest Briton that ever lived, suffered from depression himself and often referred to "his black dog". Here's a quote from Churchill which gives some insight to how he somtimes felt:
"I don't like standing near the edge of a platform when an express train is passing through. I like to stand right back and if possible get a pillar between me and the train. I don't like to stand by the side of a ship and look down into the water. A second's action would end everything. A few drops of desperation."
All of this just goes to show that there is often far more sadness in the world than we care to admit exists, or are even aware of.
Depression and sadness may well have inspired some of the greatest art and music in history. But, it may also mask, or hide something far sadder that it is lurking, just below the surface. Even in the most gifted, talented and outwardly confident people.
It sometimes takes the sad and tragic death of a well known and respected sportsman like Gary Speed, or Robert Enke to make us realise that.
NHS - Depression: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Depression/Pages/Introduction.aspx
Depression Allaince: http://www.depressionalliance.org/
Depression UK: http://www.depressionuk.org./
Black Dog Institute: http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/
(I thought long and hard about whether to upload this blog post. As i didn't know whether it was right to link the recent death of a much loved sportsman, with the effect of sadness and depression on music. I would hate anybody to think that i am taking depression lightly. That is the furthest thing from my mind. Hopefully, i have made the correct choice?)