Let’s hope Louise Speed’s honesty can help other suicidal men
At 41, Louise Speed had everything you could possibly hope for.
A loving husband, two fit and healthy teenage sons, a solid extended family, a beautiful big house in the countryside and enough money to be comfortable for life.
Almost seven years on and her life is now defined more by what she doesn’t have, than what she does.
Her former footballer and sports pundit husband Gary is gone, having hanged himself in the family garage.
Her sons are grown and moved to the US to play football, you can’t help wondering if in part to escape the sadness which lingers over the family.
Gone too is any sense of certainty. And reading Louise’s heartbreaking interviews in this paper this week, that seems almost the cruellest blow of all.
Because Louise still has no certainty about what caused her husband to take his own life.
“The impact it has left is almost indescribable,” she told my colleague Brian Reade. “There was no hint of what would happen.
“It rips a large part of you which you can never replace because what happened was unnatural.”
The trauma of what Louise experienced the night she had to cut down her husband’s body from the garage roof , and in the following days, means she struggles to accept his action.
“It’s something I will find hard to forgive Gary for,” she says.
Reading Louise’s interview it’s initially hard to understand how she couldn’t have known her husband was so struggling with life. How could anyone keep such deep trauma entirely secret?
But the realities around male suicide in the UK reflect the Speed family’s experiences closely.
Men aged between 20 and 49 – Gary was 42 – are now more likely to die from suicide than any other cause of death.
And around three-quarters of all men who take their own lives have never been diagnosed with a mental health problem.
Many have hidden their feelings from everyone around them for their entire lives.
They are men just like Gary who appeared to not have a care in the world.
And yet how different is the reality. It was only after his death that Louise found a letter he’d written at 17, showing himself to be deeply troubled even then.
Every suicide has a different set of circumstances. But clearly pressures which still exist upon men to hide their feelings only exacerbate the problem.
A report by academics in Vienna in 2015 interviewed male suicide survivors and their families. It concluded: “Almost all men reported their masculine beliefs led to them isolating themselves when they were feeling down, to avoid imposing on others.
“Some men reported that adherence to masculine norms meant feelings associated with being vulnerable provoke greater anxiety than the thought of being dead.”
So this suicide epidemic isn’t just happening to men. It’s happening because they’re men.
Louise Speed may not have been able to help the man she loved in his personal despair. But by now telling her story so honestly, we can only hope it will help other men in a similar crisis to realise they are not as alone as they may feel.
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