Poor Bryn Law appears to be the last person ever to have had contact with the former footballer and he broke down when recounting the incident on live television (see clip); Bryn reached out to Gary but the call never came.
I think the death of a much-loved footballer, one of Wales’ greatest ever players who in his career became a fan favourite at Newcastle United, Leeds United and Everton, became a pivotal point in the discussion on suicide, particularly the modern man – a successful man in most walks of his life, good looking, a much loved player, a loving family and much respected pundit in his post playing career on Match of the Day.
We were asking the same questions about Speed as we asked in the days following the death of Robin Williams – “why?” and in that respect, it seems we have not come very far at all. Yet in this country I feel it marked a fundamental change in how we deal with male suicide. We started to ask questions, perhaps partly born out of ignorance, for why a man who has everything going for him could do such a thing. Yet the answers no longer centred on what a stupid thing it was to do and why he wasn’t more grateful for the fortunate hand that life had dealt him. We started to realise that depression is not something that purely comes from negative events in our life. Disgusting rumours surfaced that he was homosexual and that he killed himself because of that. Other rumours was that he was having an affair and his wife threatened to leave him. There were so many that we should have treated them all with the disdain they deserved as sometimes, they even contradicted each other.
The fact that he was not on antidepressants and had never registered for mental health treatment means that the official verdict made vague references to suicide, implying the potential that it may even have been an accidental death and a cry for help. Yet we know how society dictates men should act – be a Real Man(TM) and bottle up those emotions, to show them is to show weakness, don’t you know that you appear pathetic in the eyes of men and especially women? Man up! Be a man! This would have counted doubly so for the alpha male world of professional football, even though emotion has always been considered an acceptable face of the professional game.
It changed something else too. It was now ok (and maybe had been for many years) for a man such as Bryn Law to express his emotions on television, to break down in tears. No one would dare call him a “pussy” or a “girl” for not bottling it up. Mental Health charities are going from strength to strength in talking about this and encouraging others to do so, and particularly in raising the enormous 75/25 split in gender suicides. There is still a long way to go.