Craig’s Corner

LIFE TRANSFORMATIONAL TOPICS

  • How to develop a positive mind set
  • How to develop a positive mind set
  • How to control or overcome stress personally and at work
  • How to overcome the fear of failure
  • How to keep looking young
  • How to have an excellent memory
  • How to have energy in abundance
  • How to be very organised
  • How to be a good listener
  • How to be a very good decision maker
  • How to build your confidence
  • How to be a magnet brand(always be in demand)
  • How to overcome challenges
  • How to overcome challenges during a pandemic
  • How to be more productive
  • How to create multiple streams of income
  • Ultimate success formula
  • How to make history in your world
  • How to achieve financial independence
  • The secret of very successful people
  • Goal-setting that brings results
  • The power of affirmation
  • The power of appreciation
  • The power of reflection
  • The power of teamwork
  • Benefits of challenges

Compiled and coaching by -

Joe Oluwa
Tel: 074285791576

Celebrity Suicide: What Drove The People Who Appeared to be on

Top of World to End Their Own Lives?

 

Each week I will be researching the tragic stories of celebrities that have sadly decided to take their own lives. I will be exploring any possible courses of action that an individual (or their family and friends) may have taken in order to try to prevent the person’s decision to take their own life. I hope that the blog will help anybody suffering now or in the future and that they may be able to relate to the experiences of the celebrities.  I would like the articles to provide the guidance that could save precious lives.

Robin Williams: The Tragic Demise of a Hollywood Hero

On the 11th August, 2014, American actor and comedian Robin Williams took his own life at the age of 63, leaving the whole world in shock. To my memory, there has never been such a public juxtaposition between such a joyful on screen character and a suicidal off screen human being. How could a multi-millionaire megastar who appeared so radiant and free on screen, be struggling so much off of it, that he decided to commit the most desperate act in order to escape a world he secretly felt that he no longer belonged?

 

The truly tragic twist to the story was that it was not simply depression that lead to his decision to hang himself at his home, it is believed that it was his struggle with disease that drove him to take his own life. Williams had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease three months before his death (with common symptoms including: shaking, rigidity, slowness of movement, and difficulty with walking). His widow Susan told the US Guardian that it was in fact Lewy body dementia was the main factor in her husband’s decision. The flamboyant funnyman was losing his body and his mind.

 

Williams had also struggled with addiction to cocaine and alcohol during his life and despite being clean for nearly a decade prior to his death, his paranoia and chronic depression had returned.

 

Statistics from Alzheimers Research UK claim that, “1 in 3 people born in the UK this year will develop dementia in their lifetime. There are 850,000 people with dementia in the UK. This will increase to over one million by 2025 and over two million by 2050.” I have worked with people who suffer from dementia and have family members who have sadly passed away as a result of the disease. I see Alzheimers as one of the most devastating and cruel diseases around. Having to watched a loved one seemingly transform in to a different person before your eyes is one of the most distressing situations imaginable.

 

Could Robin Williams have been saved? The sad answer is no. As there is no cure for Alzheimers, the disease would have sadly taken his life by 2017, however, I am sure that Williams’ family would have cherished every second of those three years, had they had known. Help is always available for people suffering with mental health problems, whether it be linked to addiction, paranoia or disease.

 

National Dementia Helpline – 0300 222 11 22

Parkinson’s UK – 0808 800 0303

Murder/Suicide: The Devastating end of a Professional Wrestling Legend

As a child, like many other lads my age, I was a huge wrestling fan! The action-packed soap opera was every young kids dream. Looking back, it probably wasn’t suitable for children, although one of the only things that ever effected emotionally was not a storyline but a real life incident that resulted in the death of one of the most popular wrestlers: Chris Benoit.

 

Having started taking a more casual approach to wrestling by 2007, it was not until four days after his death that I read about the wrestler’s death in a double-page spread in the Sun newspaper at my Grandma’s house. Being able to recall exactly where I was, down to the detail of where I was sat, shows how this tragic circumstance had truly shocked me. I remember staring at the headline for a couple of minutes, unable to read the article. The headline read something along the lines of “Professional Wrestler Kills Wife and Child Before Taking His Own Life.”

 

Benoit, aged 40, had killed his wife Nancy by strangulation on the Friday and his 7-year-old son Daniel on the Saturday, again by strangulation. Benoit committed suicide on the Sunday using a weight machine to hang himself. He had laid bibles next to the bodies, including his own.

 

It is believed that Benoit had suffered a constant string of untreated concussions, which left him with a brain that resembled an 85-year Alzheimer’s sufferer. It is also believed he had a strong addiction to alcohol and to steroids. The time between each of the murders certainly does not represent somebody who has acted in a fit of rage but rather somebody suffering from a mental health problem.

 

The reaction to Benoit’s actions have been mixed. Upon hearing of his death and before the shocking details emerged, WWE (Benoit’s employer) ran a tribute show in his memory. Once the true events had come to light, the WWE never mentioned Benoit again. They also deleted him from their past, as if he never existed. They did acknowledge the possible causes of Benoit’s actions and adapted their Wellness Policy, in order to have more testing and treatments for concussions, as well as stricter testing for steroid use.

 

Many of Benoit’s friends can not defend his actions but continue spread the notion that Benoit was a kind, loving, loyal friend and family man, up until the abuse to his body caught up with him and he no longer had control of his actions. Had Benoit or his friends and family sort the help for his addictions and had helped him to get treatment for his concussions, then it is likely this truly horrifying event would never have occurred. The deaths of Chris, Daniel and Nancy Benoit is not just a dark day in wrestling but one of the most shocking and disturbing celebrity suicides of all time.

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck

I recently watched “Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck” on Netflix. I sat down to the documentary with the intent of researching my main passion: music, that was not what this documentary’s focus…

 

After forming one of the world’s most famous rock bands, Cobain shot himself in the head with a shotgun at the age of 27. Once again, the documentary didn’t really focus on that either, with just a short graphic at the end to tell you how his life ended. The film’s main focus was on Kurt’s mental state and how he got to the stage where he wanted to end his own life.

 

If you have any interest in mental health, then I urge you to go and watch this documentary right now. Never have I seen a film that tries to get inside the mind of a suicidal man, as well as this one does. I don’t want to give too much away but the bright flamboyant colours used in the daydreams and the re-enactments of Kurt’s memoirs made this a truly harrowing watch for me.

 

As a songwriter (and arguably creative person) myself, I know what we have is a gift. We see things in our minds that we know other people don’t see. We put this to paper and strum a bit of guitar along to it and call it a song. Songwriting is more than just a few rhymes and a nice riff, it is a chance to let a person’s emotions go. I write when I am am elated, irate or down. Unfortunately, Kurt’s lyrics were continually ones of angst, sorrow and desperation and this represented how he lived his life.

 

Kurt had mental health problems from being a small child. His mother and father separated and Kurt was passed around the family, with people only being able to look after him for a couple of weeks before reaching breaking point. This is where I believe the intervention could have taken place that would have saved Kurt. In theory, he wanted the perfect family but in reality his was his actions that continued to break them apart. I understand how hard it is to help a troubled family member, who does not want or appreciate your interventions. However, Kurt would likely have seen the situation as his family giving up on him and that he did not belong. It is clear the family members did try hard with him and the medication available at the time would not have been what it is today. Given that he lived with so many different people, Kurt lacked routine. I would like to think that our understanding of children with special educational needs and the advancements in medication, would mean that there would be a much better outcome to this story, should it have occurred in the present day.

 

Kurt turned to cannabis and later to heroin to ease his emotional pain. His goal when he became famous was to earn $3 million and live out his life as a junky. What was even more upsetting was that he had found somebody who pursued the same ambitions, Courtney Love. The couple had a baby, Frances Bean, in 1992. I was surprised to see how well Kurt came across as a father. He appeared to love Frances very much and looking at the recorded footage, this could have been a last ditch attempt to change his life. Although admitting to using heroin in the early stages of pregnancy, Courtney got clean and the baby was born healthy. With a bit of willpower and pressure from Courtney, would Kurt have done the same for his baby girl and tried to create the perfect family that he had longed for in his early life? Sadly, it did not happen and Kurt took his own life on the 5th April, 1994.

 

Kurt displays a different kind of mental health issue than the previous celebrities. This was a chronic issue, spanning the majority of Cobain’s life. He lived with emotional pain each day and only drugs and music could sooth it, until it became too much. Nirvana gave the world some fantastic music and Kurt’s deeply emotional lyrics are ones that will be difficult to emulate.

Amy Winehouse: Gripped by Addiction

For many, the death of Amy at a young age was a “when?” and not “if?” question. Sadly, she was to become a member of the infamous ‘27 Club’ (a list of popular musicians, artists, or actors who died at age 27). Although not a suicide, Amy had tried to take her life before. It is reported that by the end she no longer cared if she lived or died. How did one of the greatest performers of all time find herself in such turmoil?

 

It was out of character for me but against my parent’s will, I sneaked off to watch the Arctic Monkeys at Old Trafford Cricket Ground on 28th July 2007, they were at the height of their popularity and I couldn’t miss it. I had just turned 16 and was still in school. I begged and borrowed to get £50 together to pay the inflated ticket price.

 

One of the supports that day was Amy Winehouse, who was 23 at the time. Despite hearing a few of her songs on the radio and hearing of her reputation, I didn’t really know much about her but the whole crowd was behind her. There was a sort of sympathy in the air. Everybody listened respectfully and cheered enthusiastically at the end of each song. I have never felt such an atmosphere at a gig. Amy looked worn and frail. She didn’t put a whole lot of energy into her performance and I couldn’t help but notice her missing teeth. She was still a fantastic singer and I could certainly appreciate her talent. For me, it was still shocking. I didn’t even know how old she was. At 16 you think every adult is old. Amy wasn’t, but she looked it. Why were people so into this person? How did she end up like this but still manage to get booked to go on stage in front of 55,000 people?

 

Arguably Amy’s most famous hit had the lyrics, “They tried to make me go to rehab
I said, no, no, no.” and, “I ain’t got the time and if my daddy thinks I’m fine.” At the time, it was a very clever hit out at the media’s portrayal of her. But looking back, it almost makes your stomach turn. The song makes light of her addictions which in the end turned out to be fatal. Strangely, her father didn’t think she was fine at all. He and her manager tried desperately to get Amy into rehab.

 

Amy was introduced to heroin by her future husband: Blake Fielder-Civil.
With the addiction spiralling out of control, he was eventually told by both of their families, that his only solution to the problem was to divorce her in order to “set her free”. Amy was now going to be without the person that had started her decline. Was this for better or for worse? Blake would eventually enter rehab three times, meaning he was at least trying to get clean. Could this willpower have rubbed off on Amy? Would the temptation be stronger if they were together, in the same way it was for Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love? In fact, it is reported that Amy did manage to get clean (from heroin at least). The pair divorced in 2009 and Amy was said to have given up heroin from 2008. She would replace this drug with others, including one which was much more easily available and one that would eventually end her life.

 

Like many other celebrities who struggle to cope with life in the limelight, Amy struggled with alcoholism. She would often stagger on to stage drunk and would be booed by audiences, unable to sympathise in the same way the crowd at Old Trafford did. On July 23, 2011, Amy was found dead by her bodyguard. She had died of alcohol poisoning.

 

In an interview, Blake spoke of Amy’s depression with her life without him. He said she had told him she had cut herself the night she rang him to remind him it was their wedding anniversary. He hung up on her, as his new partner was in labour with his son. The incident happened just eight weeks before the star’s death.

 

Were the families right to get involved? I have no doubt they were trying to do their best for both Blake and Amy but was it Amy’s separation from Blake that was the catalyst to her early grave? One thing to point out is that Blake is still living to give these interviews, whilst Amy is not. Despite many people blaming Blake for Amy’s downfall, had they stayed together, would Amy still be alive? It is a difficult situation, which nobody will ever know the answer to.

The Suicide of Mark Speight

In the suicides we have looked at so far, many have involved abuse of drugs, such as alcohol and cocaine. Although those drugs do feature in this story, it was in fact a metaphorical drug that drove Speight to suicide on 7th April 2008: that of love.

 

Mark Speight was the face of CBBC art programme “SMart”, from its inception in 1994. He presented alongside Kirsten O’Brien for the majority of his 13 year stint on the programme. I grew up watching SMart and although I was bordering on hopeless at art, the presenter’s passion and talent kept me watching for many years and I enjoyed growing up with the programme. I was three when the programme first aired and 16 when Speight took his own life. This was somebody I felt I almost knew (as I had been watching the programme most of my life). It was a connection that only my generation could have had, as my life and his presenting career on children’s television overlapped almost perfectly.

 

On the 3rd January 2008, Speight’s fiancée, Natasha Collins (who also featured in a CBBC programme called “See It Saw it” alongside Speight) was found dead in a bath tub, in which she had fallen into after “partying” with him on cocaine, sleeping pills, wine and vodka. The hot tap was running. Collins fell unconscious into the bath. She received 60% burns to her body. Collins was just 31.

 

Speight was arrested for murder and supplying class A drugs. Later he was released and Collin’s death was ruled a result of “misadventure”. It is thought a heart problem is what caused her to collapse into the boiling hot bath, that was still running. The subsequent arrest for Speight must have been as equally crushing for his as the death of his fiancee. It was clear to see how much Speight and Collins were in love and after her death her moved in with her mother. Speight was supposed to be meeting her for coffee on the day he disappeared but never showed. It is thought a mix up with dates resulted in him missing an appointment with a psychological counsellor. At this stage, it was probably only intervention from a trained professional that would help him to get his life back on track. Speight hd also resigned from presenting SMart, saying he was unable to go on due to his “tragic loss”.

 

He disappeared on April 7th, the day he thought was the meeting with the counsellor, who was not in the office. Speight was obviously trying to seek help for his mental state but may have took the counsellor’s absence as fate that he could not be saved, instead of a simple mix up with the dates. Small oversights like this can have a huge impact of a person that is suffering mentally. Speight was then stopped by two policemen around lunch time, who described him as looking “lost and vacant”. He refused the policemen’s help.

Mark Speight went missing for six days after this, until eventually his body found by security, hanging from a banister on the roof of a building right next to Paddington railway station, Central London. He had a broken belt in his pocket. Having tried to hang himself with the belt first, it had snapped. He then decided to use his shoelaces. A sheer act of desperation to finally be back with his loved one. Speight left two suicide notes, one on his body and one in his flat that he shared with Natasha. The notes detailed the guilt he felt about the whole situation.

 

There is an episode of ‘Live at the Apollo’ that I have seen repeated on BBC. The show must have been filmed not long before Speight’s death. The camera focuses on Speight sat alongside Kirsten O’Brien, both are belly laughing at the performance of a comedian that I can not remember the name of. The visual of him care-free and enjoying life makes my heart sink when I think about what was to come. A truly sad and tragic story of a fantastic artistic talent.

Joseph Goebbells: ``The Malicious Dwarf``

As most people know, this past Sunday was the Sunday of Remembrance. This Thursday I travel to Warsaw, Poland. A country whose invasion by Germany was the act that confirmed World War 2 and also a country who lost close to 3 million Jews in the Holocaust, compared with 165,200 from Germany. With the theme of war topical at the moment, I wanted to look at one of the many suicides that took place as a result of it. Adolf Hitler is the most famous, however, it is unlikely he would ever have got into power without his Propaganda Minister, Joseph Goebbells. A man who at the end of the war, would kill himself and the majority of his family.

Goebbells was born in 1897, in Mönchengladbach, Germany. He had many nicknames, among them: “The Nazi Megaphone” and “The Malicious Dwarf”. He contracted polio as a child and walked with a limp as a result of a crippled foot. It was this that kept him from having to fight in WW1. Despite losing the war, the soldiers who came back alive were seen as heroes and this is something Goebbells will have missed out on.

A small man with a deformity, Goebbels felt the need to overcompensate with his mind and in 1921 joined the Nazi party (or the NSDAP as they were then known). He displayed fantastic oratorical skills and soon began to publish propaganda against capitalism and called for revolution. Interestingly, in 1925, Goebbells co-wrote a piece calling for the expulsion of Adolf Hitler from the party, however, by 1926 he had a change of heart and was very much on the side of the future Fuhrer.

Goebbells began to write his own newspaper and would try to gain support for the party in any way he could. He would often make celebrated martyrs of the supporters that died for the party. Hitler was impressed. In 1929 he appointed him Reich Propaganda Leader of the NSDAP. He orchestrated the God-like image that Hitler was to present to the German people, choreographing dramatic shots of the leader looking powerful and passionate. This made Hitler into a celebrity and he was now charging towards ultimate power.

In 1933, Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany and this meant a promotion for Goebbells to the country’s Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. He was in place to get the Nazi’s into power and now that they were, he needed a new focus. This focus became rallying for war and persecuting the Jews.

Goebbells orchestrated the “Night of Broken Glass,”, in retaliation for the murder German diplomat at the hands of a Jew in Paris. There was a rampage of anti-Jewish violence and destruction, destroying over a thousand synagogues and hundreds of Jewish businesses and homes. This caused 80,000 Jews to flee Germany. At this point, Germany did not want a war and bringing such public attention to the situation was not welcomed by other high-ranking Nazi officials but Joseph Goebbells was proud of his work.

By 1941, Germany were losing the war and by 1945 it was over for Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime. Upon witnessing Hitler’s suicide, Goebbells ever the poet exclaimed, “The heart of Germany has ceased to beat. The Führer is dead.” He had moved his family into the bunker of the German Chancellory in Berlin. He was not willing to run or surrender, ‘The captain must not leave his sinking ship. I have thought about it all and decided to stay here. I have nowhere to go because with little children I will not be able to make it.’ He had an SS doctor kill his six young children, first by injecting them with morphine and then poisoning them with cyanide. He and his wife Magda them committed suicide in the Chancellery garden.

Was Goebbells a coward or was he too stubborn to accept his fate at the hands of the enemy? “Love” and “devotion” are not two words you would associate with Nazi regime but was it his love and devotion to Hitler and/or Germany that meant he could not go on living? There was no doubt that Goebbells is one of the most successful propagandists of all time. Without him, it is unlikely Hitler would ever have gotten into power. He had made it to the very top of his profession. He did not let his disability hold him back and if anything, used it as a drive for demonstrating the power of his mind. In everyday life, this is something that would be admired and commended, however, his talents will always be associated with evil.

Lil’ Chris: Too Young for Instant Fame?

On the 25th March 2015, musician Lil’ Chris (Christopher James Hardman) hung himself at his home in Suffolk after suffering years of depression. He was just 24.

 

The “Checkin’ It Out” singer rose to fame on channel 4’s “Rock School” where KISS star Gene Simmons made a rock band at Chris’ school. “Checkin’ It Out” got to number three in the UK charts in 2006, the highest charting song of his career. Lack of future chart success saw tweets including, “Thinking about quitting music forever…there has to come a time eventually when I have to face reality. I’m just not good enough.” and “I hope to one day create a way out of depression that doesn’t mean taking your own life. The Cure.”  Chris focused on his failures, rather than his huge successes, a common occurrence in depression.

 

What was to blame for Chris’ depression? I have long heard criticism of “talent shows” for being glorified karaoke and giving Joe Bloggs his fifteen minutes of fame, but people also forget the huge shock to the system when these people are shunted into the public eye, with little to no preparation. At least a celebrity who has started at the bottom knows what it feels like, should they need to go back down. When you start at the top, there is only one way to travel. What is worse in this case, is that Chris was just fifteen when he starred in the show. The pressure on such a young performer must have been enormous and sometimes intolerable. A possible reason that we are seemingly seeing fewer reality TV shows making child stars.

 

Another shocking thing about this particular case is how open Chris was about his problems, yet could still not find the help he needed. It is well known that he had thought about taking his life on previous occasions and that he was active in trying to find a “cure” for people suffering with depression. To own up to his depression was still not enough and it had such a hold over him, that he felt the need to eventually take his own life, as it was the only way of relieving his pain.

 

Despite scoring a number three single, Chris Hardman saw his music career as a failure. Whether Chris would have felt this way had he achieved his success solely on his music, as opposed to a reality tv programme, that we will never know. What is clear is that it was Chris’ greatest passion of music (and his lack of success within it) that eventually drove him to suicide.

Tyson Fury

In the early hours of April 6th, 2014, I was in the Royal Oak in Manchester city centre. I had just watched WWE Wrestlemania and had seen “The Undertaker” lose his famous streak.

 

After the event (around 4am) there was a tall and noticeable presence of a gentleman in the room. I got dared (as the confident, talkative one amongst the group) to go and ask him if he was a boxer. My friends knew it was Tyson Fury and although I recognised him, I was not sure it was him. He replied with “no I’m not” and then we got chatting. He asked me what had happened in the wrestling and most of my conversing revolved around me asking whether he thought he could win against different wrestlers, as well as then UFC champion Cain Valasquez. Tyson saw the funny side, as I threw different names at him and told him how I thought they could beat him (a bold move for a drunken 24 year old against the future heavyweight champion of the world).

 

Before we knew it, it was last orders at the bar, well it was 8am. I had shared a good number of drinks with Tyson and his cousin and we had had a great laugh along the way. I had my “selfie” with them and I was on my way into the morning sun. It would be just over a year until he would be beating the seemingly untouchable Wladamir Klitscho for the title.

 

Fury displayed his fantastic sense of humour on many occasions, most notably turning up to the press conference for the Klitscho fight in a batman suit. That was the guy I met in the pub! Now he’s Batman! There were a large number number of people who did not like Tyson’s approach to “business” but I saw it for what it was. Not only that, I could see his sense of humour and knew that he was exactly the same in real life and for that, I always defended his approach from negativity, once he became a household name.

 

I was ecstatic for Fury when he completely outboxed Klitschko but heart-rendingly for him, he felt that he had reached the top and saw the only way was seemingly down. It was not long after the win that Fury expressed some questionable comments on a number of controversial issues. Whether these comments were made “in jest”, whether they were said out of Tyson’s mental state, or whether Tyson stands by the comments, I can not say. Whatever the reasoning, the comments made understandably did not go over well with the public or the BBC who have famously snubbed him for Sport’s Personality of the Year on more than one occasion. Around the same time, Fury was stripped of his world titles. His rematch with Klitschko had been cancelled and it has since been confirmed that he was suffering with a bipolar condition and was a heavy user of cocaine and alcohol. Fury’s world had collapsed. I prayed that this story would not end in tragedy.

 

He was at a staggering weight of 28.5 stones and was said to have been drinking 100 pints of beer per week. Prior to his recent return to the ring, Fury spoke with UFC hero Joe Rogan in an interview I urge anyone struggling with their mental health, or anyone who wants to help somebody who is suffering, to watch. In the interview, Fury said “He was ready to die” after the Klitschko fight:

 

“It wasn’t until after the Klitschko fight — a very massive high — that I had to avert to an even worse low. The lowest low that anyone could ever have,” he said.

“I’d wake up and think, ‘Why did I wake up this morning?’ And this is coming from a man who won everything. Money, fame, glory, titles, a wife, family and kids — everything.

“But I felt as if I had nothing, a gaping hole that was just filled with gloom and doom.”

 

“I hit the drugs. I was out with women of the night and not coming home. I didn’t care about boxing or living, I just wanted to die,” he said. “But I was going to have a good time doing it.

“The worst thing someone suffering with their mental health (can do) is get into drugs and alcohol.”

 

Fury then went on to talk about a night that could have ended tragically:

“I was making everyone’s life a misery, no-one could talk any sense into me at all,” he said.

“I would start thinking these crazy thoughts. I bought a brand new Ferrari convertible in the summer of 2016.

“I was in it on the highway and at the bottom, I got the car up to 190mp/h (305km/h) and heading towards a bridge.

“I didn’t care about nothing, I just wanted to die so bad. I gave up on life but as I was heading to the bridge I heard a voice saying, ‘No, don’t do this Tyson, think about your kids, your family, your sons and daughter growing up without a dad.’

“Before I turned into the bridge I pulled onto the motorway, I didn’t know what to do, I was shaking, I was so afraid.

“I said I’d never think about taking my own life again.”

 

Having shed ten stones, Fury was back in the ring in June 2018 for one of his warm up bouts leading up to his huge fight with Deontay Wilder in December. I was on holiday in Tenerife and stayed up to the early hours to watch the Wilder fight on my own. Fury bossed it but in the 12th round the most amazing thing happened. Fury was knocked down and looked out for the count, when suddenly, he rose up in the same way as The Undertaker does in his wrestling matches. I couldn’t help but think “I taught him that”.  Although I am joking of course, there was a personal feel for me in what happened in that 12th round. I did genuinely think of The Undertaker and about our meeting a few years prior but I also thought of the metaphorical meaning of Fury seemingly “rising from the dead” and it was one of the most amazing and emotional things I have seen in sport.

 

Tyson Fury had fought his way back from depression. He had fought his way back into the ring and he had fought himself back into the public’s heart. Most would argue he fought his way to the WBC title but that’s a story for a different day. I am hoping we will finally see the fight everybody now wants in 2019, Tyson Fury vs The Undertaker…

Justin Fashanu: Fallen Hero

When he transferred from Norwich to Nottingham Forest, Justin Fashanu became the first £1 million black footballer. Just 17 years later, he would be found hanged in a lockup garage in London.

 

Fashanu was of Nigerian decent. When his parents split up, his dad moved back to Nigeria and his mother, Pearl, was unable to look after him and his brother John. They were sent to a Bernardo’s home and were at risk of being separated before being fostered by Alf and Betty Jackson, at their home in Norfolk.

 

The boys were already celebrities in Norfolk. Two back boys being brought up by a white couple certainly did not go unnoticed. Justin began to excel in all sports at school, in particular, boxing and football. His potential to become a professional was noticed at an early age by Norwich City scout Ronnie Brooks, who later became a father figure to Justin. He was offered a trial at the age of 13 and soon after was signed by the club.

 

Just one month short of his 18th birthday, in 1979, Justin made his debut for Norwich City and soon became their top goalscorer. The following year he was to score a goal that would change his life. A fantastic volley against Liverpool was to win him the goal of the season and Fashanu was brought to the attention of the big clubs. He was signed by legendary manager Brian Clough for the seven figure sum in 1981. The toxic relationship between the two huge personalities was to turn Justin’s life upside down.

 

In his first season at Forest, he was able to score just three goals. Up to then, the media had built Fashanu up as a megastar but much like today, they were quick to turn their back on the celebrities they had help to build. Fashanu was known to party in “gay clubs” and was accused of having one night stands with men. In a time of desperation, Fashanu turned to the Christian church for guidance.

 

In the Summer of 1982, Justin went to search for his father in Nigeria. He found him and the meeting was peaceful, however, he would never meet up with his father again.

 

Clough had suspended Fashanu because of his continued disagreements with the manager but he still turned up for training. He had to be removed by the police from the training pitch. Brian Clough said, “I paid a million quid for him. He couldn’t score goals and he was a bit dodgy off the field.” A statement he said was one of his biggest regrets later in life. Justin was accepting of the racism in football, he had had it all his life and was good enough to silence the haters but Clough’s views on his sexuality were to derail the young footballer.

 

He was then to go from club to club, plagued by a knee injury that cost him almost all of his money to try and get fixed. He was to turn to his brother John (also now a successful footballer) for help financially.

 

In October 1990, Justin, who was now desperate for money, sold his story of his “seedy” lifestyle to the newspapers. The day before it was printed, he informed his brother, as he feared for the backlash against both of them. John offered the same amount to his brother (£80,000) for it not to be published. The mere association with a gay footballer at the time would likely be detrimental to John’s career. He feared for the reception he would receive at the weekend’s game and the games going forward. It was too late, the story had already gone to print.

 

Realising he could make good money for stories, Justin began to fabricate them. Having to publicly apologise for false accusations of a sexual affair with a married MP. The press would no longer go near him, as people no longer knew what to believe.

 

1994 saw the end of Justin’s playing career and he moved to Maryland, USA to become a coach.

 

In 1998, he was accused of sexual assault by a 17 year old DJ at a party. The DJ said that first Justin fondled him but backed off when the DJ said he was not interested. The DJ then remembers falling asleep on the couch and waking up in bed with Fashanu. Justin claimed that the accusations were false and that the interactions were consensual and that he was being blackmailed.

 

Again desperate, again he turned to religion.  He was on bail from the police and returned to Leicester pray at the city’s abbey. Justin had continued to practice his faith throughout his adult life but struggled with its conflict with his sexuality.

 

On May 15th 1998, Justin was found hanged in a garage that he had broken into in the Shoreditch area of London. The suicide note denied all of the allegations once again and said simply, “I hope the Jesus I love will welcome me home.”

 

The story of Justin Fashanu life and death is one that should never be forgotten, even though you very rarely hear his name mentioned, due to incidents in his later life. A black, gay footballer abandoned at birth, who made a life for himself, one he no longer wished to live as a result of his media perception and the thousands of fans that chanted abuse at him for his race and sexuality. We are fortunate that we live in a Britain that has had a huge shift in discrimination. Campaigns, especially in football, have helped to push most of this unacceptable behaviour out of society and it can be argued that Justin Fashanu was a catalyst for this. His mistakes (whether true or false) later in life were made by a desperate man, a man tormented throughout his life. His earlier life should stand forever as an inspiration to anybody who faces adversity in their own.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8lUe59EP84

Craig: Song

Fed to the lions, he would never grow old,
doesn’t matter look at all the papers we sold
Built up to knock down is that how it has to be?
Suffered the grief and the guilt and the sorrow and pain
of what was then the not so beautiful game
Until we knew then that something had to change
Chorus
They said oh oh oh we know your name
He said woah oh woah oh well I’m not to blame
This constant disapproval is starting to get to me
Is he as futile and dicey as he is bold?
Is he all so sorry for the lies that he told?
Another victim of the defamation machine?
The receiver of many unwelcome tirades
Who argued that his lifestyle choices were strange
‘Till he became a catalyst for change
Chorus

They said oh oh oh we know your name
He said woah oh woah oh I’m not to blame
This constant disapproval is starting to get to me
Is he as futile and dicey as he is bold?
Is he all so sorry for the lies that he told?
Another victim of the defamation machine?
The king of revolution had fell from the throne
He hoped the Jesus he loved would welcome him home
Cried then died, cold and all alone

Jim Jones and The People’s Temple

What drove 918 people to commit suicide, in the same place, at the same time? The extensive answer was laid to rest in the twisted mind of cult leader Jim Jones. However, people who do not know the back story of People’s Temple and Jones, may be surprised when they learn about it.

Jim Jones was born into the US’ The Great Depression to a sick and weak father and a strong, defiant mother. At the age of ten, he would often find himself wondering the streets of Lynn, Indiana. This was before he was taken under the wing of his devout Christian neighbour, Myrtle Kennedy. Kennedy introduced Jim to the church and he was fascinated. He began holding his own funeral services for dead cats, dogs and birds. He would also start to preach to younger children, locking the doors and insisting they listen to what he had to say. One “friend” who was forced to listen to such an exhort was Donald Foreman. In a documentary, he explained how Jim would have such an evil smirk on his face when playing pranks on the younger kids, it was an evil smirk the world would one day be familiar with.

When his mum fell in love with another man, Jones moved with them to Richmond, Indiana. Richmond was a city split through segregation of whites and blacks. Jones would be rarely seen without a bible and began to preach on the streets about racial equality. A message that drew many of community in. On the streets is where Jones would hone his preaching skills.

Jones met a nurse four years his senior, she too was a devout Christian, so much so that her family did not want her marrying the seemingly much younger Jones. At the age of 18 and using his already very powerful power of persuasion, he convinced Marceline Baldwin’s parents to allow him to marry their daughter. He had graduated college early and at university began to read many books of socialism. The theory he saw as the way forward was communism (a social theory that does not have a great track record).

University did not suit Jones and he decided to drop out and become a minister. The role was not well paid, so he decided to pursue a small business venture, importing monkeys from South America and selling them door to door.

As a minister, Jones began to practice healings, that some friends were against, saying Jones himself had admitted to them how he had set them up. People’s belief in his healing powers helped Jones to become fascinated with manipulation and power. He used the money he had earnt to put down on a church of his own, “Wings of Deliverance”, soon to be renamed: “The People’s Temple”. Here he would continue to use religion as a vehicle to put across his social views and continued to preach socialism and racial equality. True to his word, the church helped to open soup kitchens for the homeless and clothed the poor.

1959 saw the birth of the Jones’ only legitimate son, Stephen Ghandi. The couple would go on to adopt black and Korean children, labelling themselves a “Rainbow Family”. People began to buy into Jones as a legitimate leader, who was there for the greater good.

Jones was welcomed to the Human Right’s Commission and began to work on eliminating segregation. His work was soon coming to the attention of some dangerous organisations, such as the KKK, who did not quite agree with Jones’ view on racial equality.

It was in 1962 where Jim Jones appeared to begin his downhill slide. He had read an article about how the world was going to end through a nuclear attack and very much believed what he was reading. As a result of this and the threat from the organisations, he moved to Belo Horizonte, Brazil. His life would be funded by his church. That was until membership to his church fell below 100 as a result of the absence of their energetic and charismatic leader. They asked Jones to return to save the church and in 1964, he did just that. People now started to view Jones as a prophet and he himself believed he was God. To him, there was now no greater power, as he was it.

To get away from the threat of attacks, he moved his followers to Redwood Valley, California. His church offered poor people hope but many middle class white people also joined, believing in his message and cause.

It was in 1969 that the goings on of the church would take a much more sinister turn. Jones ordered that there would be free love and free sex. Basically, Jones could demand sex from any of the members at any time, whether male or female. He would tell the members of the church to stand if he had had sexual relations with them in order to demonstrate his power and hold, making sure every one of his “victims” stood. Jones also began to punish people who misbehaved in his eyes, carrying out beatings for any misdemeanours. Amongst the violence, was the threat to murder any traitors to the cause.

For many, the church provided social worth, for others it simply provided the drama they lacked in their life. Jones had now started to use drugs and had become heavily addicted.

In 1972 the church again moved, this time to San Francisco. Members had now began to give their life savings, pensions and sell their homes to be with the cult. There was no way out for many of them now but that didn’t matter, The People’s Temple promised a better life for them.

The cult began to practice fake suicides. Jones wanted to gauge reactions when he suggested the idea of suicide. In meetings labelled by Jones as the “White Nights” members were made to swear allegiance to protect the cult from outside forces, even if that meant dying in the process.

Becoming heavily paranoid from the drugs he was taking, Jones decided to move the now nearly 1000 person strong People’s Temple to Guyana. In his everlasting desperation for self worth, the new complex  would be named Jonestown. The members believed they were pioneers, paving the way for a new life of equality and happiness. Jones had advertised Guyana as a paradise. Most had to go, as they had put all of their money into the church, but many also wanted to go in search of the promise land.

Upon landing in Guyana, Jones confiscated all members passports. They soon learned that the paradise that awaited them did not exist and they were to live in conditions that much more resembled a concentration camp. Working long hours only to be called to witness or receive punishments from Jones who now sat in a throne. Families were made to beat their own, or else they would all be violently punished as a result.

Jim Jones wife and son soon realised the extent of the situation and could not control the man who believed he was God, whilst addicted to a wide range of drugs.

The cult again found itself “under attack”. This time it was from defectors and their relatives, who labelled themselves as, “Concerned Relatives”. Politician Leo Ryan went with the organisation to investigate Jonestown. What they found were elated people who had seemingly found the paradise they were in search of. In reality, members were handing notes to cameramen, asking for their help to escape.

Jones found out about the 15 followers who had betrayed The People’s Temple and sent armed guards to stop the fleeing posse.  The guards, who had travelled on a tractor, shot and killed Leo Ryan and a number of others as they began to board the plane home. They returned to Jonestown to inform Jim that Leo had been killed.

Jim Jones gathered his followers. Knowing that an attack from the outside was now imminent, he ordered the suicides that they had prepared for to begin. There were huge vats of punch laced with cyanide and syringes for children. He had ordered that the children die first. He told the parents to inject the syringes and for the children to drink the punch.  As he heard the cries, in a calm voice, Jones urged the children to die with dignity and not in tears. Knowing that without their children, most family members would feel they had nothing to live for, he then urged the parents and others to join the children in paradise.

Jones was found with a bullet in his head. It is not known whether the wound was self inflicted or a result of an attack from a member. He was found dead alongside his 917 followers.

The Jonesetown Mass suicide is another sad story of desperation, that can be once again be blamed on a heavy user of drugs. When thinking of a cult (especially if you are not religious) you think how can these people be stupid enough to be sucked in by this maniac? The reason this story fascinated me so much, is that it is not difficult to see how so many people wanted to be a part of an organisation that preached equality, in what was still such a sad time in history for the US. Jim Jones did do a lot of good in the early days of his organisation but his need for power and desire to manipulate warped his mind and would result in one of the biggest mass suicides ever recorded in human history.

Avicii: Wake Me Up When It’s All Over

Tim Bergling, better known to you and me as Avicii, died on 20th April 2018 near Muscat in Oman.

The Swedish DJ superstar’s death came as a huge shock to the world. But who was Tim Bergling and what lead to his death?

Local police believed there to be no foul play. Berling’s family hinted at suicide, stating that, “He really struggled with thoughts about meaning, life, happiness. He could not go on any longer. He wanted to find peace”. TMZ later reported that he had taken his own life with a broken wine bottle, all alone, in a secluded house in Muscat.

Avicii brought electronic music to the mainstream and his biggest hit “Wake Me Up” will forever be remembered. Reading or listening to the lyrics in light of the events since, makes the song much more haunting. The lyrics including, “All this time I was finding myself
and I didn’t know I was lost”, “I tried carrying the weight of the world but I only have two hands” and “life will pass me by if I don’t open up my eyes, well that’s fine by me”. In hindsight,  the mega hit with the happy beat, appears to be a cry for help from a person suffering deeply.

Like so many other people living with depression, Avicii had become a heavy drinker. In fact, he dealt with a number of psychical and mental health problems, including acute pancreatitis, brought on by his excessive drinking. 2014 saw him having surgery to remove his gallbladder and appendix. It was thought that he had done close to 800 gigs in eight years, before retiring from touring in 2016, as a result of his mental health. In their statement, his family said, “When he stopped touring, he wanted to find a balance in life to be happy and be able to do what he loved most – music.”

Tim Bergling was extremely humble with his fame and generous with his money. With his songs netting him around £60 million and earning around £250,000 a night as a DJ, he would go on to donate millions to charities combatting hunger and homelessness. In an interview in 2013, Tim said, “I discovered when I started making money that I didn’t really need it,” and that “When you have such an excess of money you don’t need, the most sensible, most human and completely obvious thing is to give to people in need.” A refreshing and fantastic approach from a person of great wealth.

Tim Bergling leaves behind a huge legacy and is a true inspiration to musicians and the wealthy across the world.

Karen Carpenter: “On Top of the World?”

Karen Carpenter was an icon of the 1970’s. She formed “The Carpenters” in 1968, alongside her brother Richard. Labelled as soft rock, the group would go on to have huge hits, such as “Close To You” and “Top of the World” but Karen was to die at the age of 32, as a result of a severe mental illness: anorexia.

 

Originally, taking up music to avoid P.E at school, Karen soon displayed a real talent for it.  She would start up the band as a drummer but soon moved to focus her attention solely as a vocalist.

 

Born in Doney, California, Karen started dieting at the age of just 16. She was a chubby teenager and in 1973, she saw a photo of herself that left her feeling the need to take more severe action. Karen lost around 1.5 stones but then after that, struggled to stop.


The anorexia was affecting Karen dramatically and by 1975 she had lost a considerable amount of weight and was suffering extreme exhaustion.  This meant that the Carpenter’s European tour had to be cancelled. It is reported that Karen looked as though she was dying of cancer, as she was in such bad shape.

 

In 1980, Karen seemed to be gaining control of her life when she married Thomas Burris but the marriage was to be short-lived. Reports of domestic abuse and Burris refusing to have kids, reportedly broke Karen’s heart.

 

It was not until 1981 that Karen finally sought help. She moved to New York and spent a year receiving treatment.

 

After the treatment, she returned to California, seemingly in better health. However, on February 4th 1983, Karen collapsed at the family home and medics were unable to resuscitate her. She had died at the age 32 of heart failure, which was thought to have been brought on by the years of starving her body.

But what caused Karen’s anorexia? In his 2010 book, Randy Schmidt, would claim it was emotional problems that drove the problem and in particular, Karen’s drive to be loved and accepted by her own mother, Agnes. Whatever the reasoning, once again, a fantastic talent was taken far too young, in tragic and avoidable circumstances.

What is anorexia? (information provided by the NHS)

“People who have anorexia try to keep their weight as low as possible by not eating enough food or exercising too much, or both. This can make them very ill because they start to starve”.

“They often have a distorted image of their bodies, thinking they are fat even when they are underweight”.

“Men and women of any age can get anorexia, but it’s most common in young women and typically starts in the mid-teens”.

If you think you may have anorexia, or know someone that does, please visit: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/anorexia/ for full symptoms and treatment advice.

Keith Flint: Musical Prodigy

One drug we have not touched upon is more of a metaphor and it is that of love.

This week Keith Flint, lead singer of English electronic band The Prodigy, committed suicide after splitting with wife Mayumi Kai and having to sell his home.

Though details of the death are still scarce, it is thought that Flint had spiralled into depression and turned back to drug use, after the break up with his wife, a model and DJ from Japan. He had returned to a lifestyle that Flint admits Kai had previously saved him from.

When he met her, Flint fell instantly in love with Kai. He had previously spoke about how he was unable to talk when he first saw her and simply felt “overwhelmed”.

The couple married in 2006 and shared their £1.5 million farmhouse in Essex. Flint had only just returned from the band’s tour of Australia and Kai was in Japan at the time of his death.

Flint also owned a pub that was in over £500,000 worth of debt. This was mostly as a result of anti-hunting protestors, who continued to attack the pub, as it was frequented by local fox hunters.

Reports have also emerged on how Keith was pictured doing a 5k run, just two days before his body was found and that he would run with a personal trainer every morning. Why is this a news story? Maybe it is simply because somebody who is appearing to look after their fitness and socialise with other runners, is unlikely to be suicidal. In this instance, those assumptions were very wrong.

Emily Eavis, organiser of the country’s most famous music festival: Glastonbury, has since come out and confirmed that The Prodigy were booked to headline this year. I have seen calls on social media for the band to complete the gig as a tribute to their charismatic front man, we will have to wait and see what happens with that.

This suicide has brought about some wonderful tributes from musicians you would not necessarily link to The Prodigy. James Blunt and Brian May from Queen amongst them. All tell of what a fantastically friendly, inspirational and approachable man that Flint was.

Keith Flint’s death was not seemingly driven by fame or even by money but the love for his wife and his home, both of which he felt he could not live without. I am sure that many more details are yet to emerge on why Flint chose to end his life but yet again it is another devastating loss for the music family.

Muggy Mike

REALITY TV? Two Love Island stars commit suicide within a year of each other.

Mike Thalassitis or “Muggy Mike”, found fame on ITV’s reality TV show “Love Island”. His appearance on screen next month, as part of MTV’s “Ex on the Beach”, has now been cancelled, after he hung himself, at the age of just 26, in woodland close to his home.

Mugged off. Love Island slang definition: If you’re unfortunate enough to be mugged off on the island, it probably means someone has pretended to like you while chatting up someone else behind your back. Being muggy is nothing to do with the weather, it means you’re acting out of order”.

He was branded “Muggy” after entering the show late and causing friction between the already established couples, as a way of keeping his place on the island.  The plan worked, as he became on of the main characters on the show that year.

A problem has seemingly arose with the word “REALITY”, in the label of “Reality TV”. TOWIE, Made in Chelsea, Geordie Shore etc. are effectively soaps and their stars turn up their own personas to the maximum, to gain them the attention and notoriety to make them money.  The issue though, is that unlike soap stars, these characters will never be separated from their on screen characters, or else they will lose their “authenticity”.

These programmes are there for drama, mostly for their arguments and betrayals. People who are unable to separate the games from real life are undoubtably going to get hurt.

Ex on the Beach is a show that’s whole concept is based around causing arguments between reality stars who have often been established elsewhere. Mike Thalassitis was recently dating Megan Mckenna, a star he is likely to have come in to conflict with in the recent filming of the show.
Thalassitis is the second star of Love Island to kill himself in just nine months, with former Miss Great Britain, Sophie Gradon, taking her own life last June. This then lead to her boyfriend, Aaron Armstrong, killing himself just days after her funeral.

ITV have said that they will now offer therapy to all Islanders and not only those that reach out to them. Is this enough? Or is it time for these shows to evolve into shows that aren’t destroying people’s lives? Many have called for the next series of Love Island to be cancelled all together.

Ellie Soutter

One of the most heartbreaking stories of 2018 was the death of British snowboarder, Ellie Soutter.

Team GB’s “up and coming” star committed suicide on a day that is often one of the happiest in the life of many, her eighteenth birthday.

In 2017 (at the age of 16) Ellie came home from Turkey as the winner of the only medal at the European Youth Olympic Festival. Her future looked extremely bright but things were soon to take a tragic turn.

Just a year later she would be found hanged in woodland near her home in Les Gets, in the French Alps.

Shortly after her death, her dad, Tony, announced that Ellie took her life after missing a flight to a Team GB training session. It is thought that this incident triggered the suicide after years of mental health issues.

He also blasted the pressure put on young athletes, early in their careers.

It is thought Ellie felt she had let her team mates and her family down and it was too much for the promising star to take.

It has also been reported that Ellie was struggling to raise the funds she needed to train and compete.  With the sport costing an eye-watering £28,000 per year.

She would need to find a full commercial sponsorship to keep the dream of participating at the Winter Olympics alive. Ellie may have felt that missing the flight was going to affect her search for a full sponsorship.

I am not sure that niche sports like this should be funded by the Government, hobbies can be expensive and choosing to participate in sports that are not being viewed by millions is likely to cost the participants a considerable amount.

That being said, Ellie clearly felt pressured to gain that sponsorship, which I am sure she would have done if the reports of her ability were true.

Do we put too much pressure on young sports stars? Probably. The pressure of sports is ridiculously high. But at what age is the pressure going to be put on? Like any job, there is going to be competition, success and failures.

We put a lot of pressure on 15/16 year olds during their GCSE’s. How does the pressure of sport at that age differ? I am unsure. Both dangle the carrot of a successful future, at what age should the pressure of life be put on to a young person?

This is a difficult situation. Should a person under the age of 18 be expected to raise £28,000 to compete and represent their country at the Olympics? The sport obviously meant the world to Ellie Soutter and her “failure”, in her own mind, lead to her death.

A Stitch in Time

Head spins with all the ideas.
That contains the deep and dark of all of my fears.

And I slip and I fall but I get through it all, who knew?

 

I’m a Jekyll and tired of this whole affair.

Do you sometimes get the feeling that life’s not fair?

And I wish I could share, all of my cares, but I don’t feel I lay them all off on you.

 

As I laugh in a sea of sadness

I don’t know what gets me down.

I see a light in a sea of darkness,

Gasp for air, as I start to drown now

 

A stitch in time, well it could save nine

A stitch in time could save my life
A stitch in time, well it could save nine

A stitch in time could save my life

 

I can’t Hyde and I know that we’re quite the pair.

I sometimes get the feeling that sometimes life’s not fair.

And I wish I could share, all of my cares,I’m not sure I can layall them off on you.

 

As I laugh in a sea of sadness

I don’t know what gets me down.

I see a light in a sea of darkness,

Gasp for air, as I start to drown now

A stitch in time, well it could save nine

 

A stitch in time could save my life
A stitch in time, well it could save nine

The hope that I had, left me high and dry.

And I constantly find things on my mind,

Never win, without fail, always on the run.

But you’ll find that I’ll make it now.

Son of a gun.

Chris Cornell: Another Death in Grunge

In 2017, Chris Cornell hung himself in a hotel room in Detroit, at the age of just 52.

 

The Soundgarden and Audioslave front man shockingly committed suicide just hours after a gig in the city’s Fox Theatre.

 

Despite being a big music fan, I was not really familiar with the two bands, or Cornell. I do remember vividly the out-poor of emotion I saw on social media. Both fans and industry professionals were all in complete shock and expressed deep sadness.

 

Cornell was a pioneer in the grunge music scene. This is a music genre that has seen an exceptionally high number of suicides, most notably Kurt Cobain.

 

A post on Wikipedia explains that,“grunge lyrics are typically dark, nihilistic, wretched, angst-filled and anguished, often addressing themes such as social alienation, self-doubt, abuse, neglectance, betrayal, social isolation/emotional isolation, psychological trauma and a desire for freedom”.

It is no surprise that this genre has so many of its stars dying at a young age. These are people with a message, who need to be heard, who need to be helped.

 


Since Chris’s death, his widow, Vicki Cornell, has sued his doctor for malpractice. She claimed that Dr. Robert Koblin was negligent and that he repeatably prescribed the singer dangerous mind-altering controlled substances.

 

The accusations bring up the question of whether celebrities today have too much power? We saw a similar case with the death of Michael Jackson. Was Cornell demanding the drugs and was his Doctor under too much pressure from a celebrity that was used to getting what he wants? It is certainly a possibility.

 

He had performed with his usual high charisma and energy on stage, just hours before his death. This simply reiterates that no matter how happy a person may appear on the outside, you never know what demons they are dealing with within. In this instance, the signs were there in the form of Cornell’s lyrics and their regular references to suicide.

Jeremy Kyle: For or Against?

You probably know about it by now (but if you didn’t) controversial talk show Jeremy Kyle has been cancelled after 14 years. The end comes after a guest committed suicide, ten days after filming and a couple of days before the programme was due to air.

 

After 16 series and 3,320 episodes, ITV put out a statement that read, “”The Jeremy Kyle Show has had a loyal audience and has been made by a dedicated production team for 14 years, but now is the right time for the show to end,”

“Everyone at ITV’s thoughts and sympathies are with the family and friends of Steve Dymond. The previously announced review of the episode of the show is under way and will continue.

“ITV will continue to work with Jeremy Kyle on other projects.”

 

Steve Dymond, 63, was found dead in a bedsit just over a week after failing a lie detector test (in which he denied cheating on his partner). The show was pulled at the last minute after the tragic news was announced.

 

So, should Jeremy Kyle have been cancelled? I’m still not sure. In my university years, I did go and watch it being filmed (twice), despite never really being a fan of the show. This was a chance to be on television, it was free, it was local, as well as my teenage thirst for a bit of drama. All of this lead me to the ITV studios. My first appearance aired on my eighteenth birthday: what a memory!

 

I digress. It may be easier to bullet point my reasons for and against the show’s cancellation and then you can make your own mind up. I have watched and read quite a lot of different discussion on this (from a variety of angles). All make very interesting arguments.

 

For the cancellation:

 

  • I have seen the show described as ‘modern day bear-baiting’. In truth (although I have only personal evidence of this) most people who watch Jeremy Kyle do so in the hope that it will kick off and not in the hope that they see a volatile situation resolved calmly and peacefully. Some may watch as guidance in solving their own problems in life, but again, I assume this in only a small percentage.

 

  • The problems with drugs and alcohol and our reliability on them as a society certainly needs to be changed. I feel that hard hitting documentaries, mostly seen on Channel 4 and Channel 5 have a much better impact. Tackling the issues at their roots, instead of their secondary problems (like affairs and DNA tests).

 

  • The format of the show has always made something like this likely to happen. On Channel 4 News the other day, I saw a journalist who had interviewed a researcher for a show “similar in nature to Jeremy Kyle”. He said the researcher told him how she would ask potential guests about their medications and (although I can not recall the specific drugs) if they were ones taken by somebody who is likely suicidal, it would be a definite no. Interestingly, if it was general anti-depressant drugs, they were very good candidates, as these people were thought to make the most exciting and potentially explosive television.

 

  • Other shows of the “Noughties” have come and gone. Big Brother was the latest long-standing reality TV show to bite the dust. First airing in 2000, the show (similar to Jeremy Kyle) relied on conflict for entertainment and preyed on emotionally charged and psychology vulnerable “contestants”. Before the Jeremy Kyle story hit the headlines this week, I (like many others) didn’t even know the show was still on TV. This could have just been the final blow that finished the show for good.

 

Against the cancellation:

 

  • I have seen the show being compared to Love Island a lot on social media. I have posted a previous blog documenting the deaths of Mike Thalassitis and Sophie Gradon. Love Island has seen the suicide of two contestants, from 158 episodes. Comparing this to one suicide from 3,320 episodes (and a far greater number of guests overall), there does appear to be a huge hypocrisy from ITV. 3.6 million people tuned in to watch the 2018 finale of the show. Are ITV more concerned with their viewership numbers? The fact that two young people have taken their own lives should be a massive concern for ITV.

 

  • Steve Dymond’s ex-wife had spoken since his death. She claims her ex-husband was a monster who used to beat her. She also claimed that Dymond committed suicide through fear of being exposed as a paedophile. If these claims are true, then it would appear that the show may only have been a small impact on Dymond’s decision.

 

  • With regards to the class system, it has been argued that Jeremy Kyle offered a stage for the working class. Granted, it was a rather dark, dull and tacky stage but a stage none the less. The show arguably makes upper classes aware of the problems faced in society: a modern day “An Inspector Calls” with Kyle as Priestley.

 

  • Around one million people still watch the Jeremy Kyle show everyday. This is a pretty big draw for a show that starts at 9.25am and certainly demonstrates that the show is still popular.

 

  • Jeremy Kyle did do a lot of good with some of his shows. Helping people with illnesses and reuniting estranged parents with their children. If a similar talk show was to be brought back in the time slot, then it may be better to have something like this on a more regular basis. I remember upon my visit to the studios, the runner for the show announced, “ok so today we have a reunion special today!”, everybody groaned in unison. He then laughed and said he was only joking and everybody cheered. People want the drama from the Kyle show, not really thinking about the lives that the guests were going back home to.

 

You can probably think of more arguments for and against. You may be strictly one or the other. I think the show had just become outdated and that ITV were looking for a reason for change. Jeremy Kyle did replace Trisha Goddard and Big Brother moved to channel 5, so it may not be the last we see of shows like this on television. I would not be surprised if Kyle made the jump to channel 4, as they currently do not have much to offer with regards to morning television and a million viewers is still quite a pull to get the advertisers paying their money, which is what is is all about…

Robert Enke - The Death of a National Goalkeeper

Robert Enke – The Death of a National Goalkeeper

 

Often depression is a result of a trauma in a person’s life. One of the most distressing examples is the suicide of German international goalkeeper, Robert Enke.

 

With a long list of clubs (including Barcelona and Benfica) added to his eight international caps for Germany, he should have been on top of the world. Instead, Enke took his own life at the age of just 32.

 

After a successful early career in Germany, Enke signed for Portuguese giants Benfica in 1999. The keeper soon began to question his decision. He had a history of panic attacks and this made him question his future in the game, only deciding to stay knowing that he had already signed the contract.

 

Enke was soon boosted by his promotion to captain by his manager (and fellow countryman) Jupp Heynckes. It was not long until Heynckes was replaced and the club struggled through  Enke’s three seasons there, making an all time low finish of sixth in the table.

 

Despite the poor showing of the team, Enkes performances stood out. Catching the attention of Athletico Madrid, Arsenal and Manchester United. He signed a three year deal with Barcelona in 2004, under boss Louis van Gaal.

 

Enke struggled, making only a handful of performances, that were mostly poor ones.

 

A new manager at the Nou Camp, meant a new club for Enke. He was loaned out to Istanbulspur. Quitting the club soon after he was pelted with firelighters and bottles during a game. The missiles were thrown by his own fans, who were unhappy with the defeat and blamed the goalkeeper. This lead to his first bout of depression and resulted in him nearly quitting the game for good.

 

Enke was loaned to Tenerife, performed well and then went to Hannover 96 in the German Bundesliga. It was to be his last club.

Enke fought his way back into the national set up. Playing eight games for his country and being involved in Germany’s Euro 2008 campaign. The struggles of the football world would pale in significance to what the 6ft 1” goalkeeper had faced just two years earlier.

 

Married to modern pentathlete Terese Reim, Enke had a daughter named Lara.  She was born with a heart defect and the drugs used to treat her made her completely lose her hearing. Despite having a successful cochlear implant, Lara died in 2006, due to complications with the defect. It was to break Robert Enke completely.

 

In early 2009, the family adopted another young girl named Leila. It was not enough for Robert, who could not replace the void left by Lara’s death.

 

In November 2009, Enke died immediately after standing in front of an express train in Neustadt am Rübenberge. He had left a suicide note but the contents were never made public.

 

After his death, Terese Reim revealed her husband’s six year long struggle with depression and told how he was being treated by a psychiatrist, but the loss of his daughter left him unable to cope.

 

The football world was shocked. His former clubs paid tribute and many clubs held a minutes silence.

 

A simple reminder that celebrities are people. Their worries in life are often magnified and their reluctancy to share their worries (for fear of scrutiny) is a hurdle we simply have to overcome. The treatment of Enke at Istanbulspur was horrendous and clearly deeply upset him. Despite seemingly making a recovery professionally, you just do not know what effect that had on him personally. He had suffered with depression for three years before the death of his daughter and that appears to be down to his life as a professional footballer. It is not difficult to see why the tragic death of his young daughter made Enke’s life unliveable.

Virginia Woolfe: An English Literature Pioneer

Many of us have heard the name Virginia Woolf. One of Britain’s truly legendary authors, Woolf took her own life in truly shocking circumstances.

Born in London in 1882, to a mother and father who were a model and a famous author respectively. Woolf was not allowed to the University of Cambridge because of her gender. Instead, she and her sister read books from their father’s study in order to further their own education.

Her parents would host many of the days most brilliant and important members of Victorian literary society. Woolf saw many of these writers as self-important and narrow minded. It was a rapidly evolving society. Equality, technology, consumerism and urbanism all saw great changes and Woolf wanted to capture this as best she could.

When she was 13, her mother tragically died. Woolf would be hit by the first of the mental breakdown’s that would plague her for life. These were made worse by the sexual abuse carried out by her half-brother George Duckworth.

Still fighting with her mental state, Woolf became a journalist and then a novelist.

She married Leonard Woolf and the pair bought and printing press for their dining room. This allowed her to print her to print her radical, controversial and ofter politically charged novels and essays, that many other publishers would not.

Between the two world wars, Woolf released her four most famous books, “Mrs Dalloway”, “To The Lighthouse”, “Orlando” and a the landmark feminist book “A Room of One’s Own”. In the book, she asks the question, “what is Shakespeare had a sister?”, a fantastic thought-provoking metaphor that challenged the patriarchal society. The point being that we could be missing out on genius works by not allowing women to be further educated.

On March 28th, 1941, Woolfe left two suicide notes. One was written to her sister and the other to her husband (this is the one you can see below). Both told her family she planned to kill herself but gave now hint of how or where.

She had in fact filled her pockets with stones and thrown herself into the rives Ouse. The river washed her away and her body was not found for another three weeks. This must have been torture for her family, who were still unsure of Woolfe’s fate, having only found her hat and cane on the river bank.

It is thought that the traumatic experiences in her life lead Wolfe to develop bi-polar disorder. She would have many mental breakdowns to the point that she felt that she was a burden on her loved ones. It is so sad that a clearly strong, driver individual – who overcame so many adversities in life – would choose to end that life themselves. If this were to happen in the present day, you would hope that Virginia Woolfe would find the help (whether through medicinal or therapeutic means) that she so desperately required.

The Jeremy Kyle Enquiry

ITV and Jeremy Kyle bosses have appeared in front of MPs, as part of an enquiry into the suicide of Steve Dymond, earlier this year.

 

The subject of a previous blog, Mr Dymond took his own life after failing a lie detector test on the show. A test that ITV have now said may have had unreliable results.

 

The enquiry has been launched by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, after the show was cancelled – 14 years since it first aired.

 

Discussion took place around the reliability of the test. A disclaimer always said that the tests were not 100% accurate but Kyle would strongly believe in the tests. In fact, it has now been said that up to one in three tests could have provided inaccurate results and guests were never encouraged to carry out independent tests. How could this have been allowed to happen for so long? This is a very poor success rate and the outcome (as seen) could have devastating consequences.

 

Committee chairman Damian Collins labelled the tests “irresponsible” and criticised their presentation as black and white facts.

 

The process of keeping the guests separated before the show was also heavily criticised. The consequence of which was an explosion of emotion and confrontation when many guests met on stage.

 

Guests were also warned by bosses about Jeremy’s presenting style, asking if they were familiar with it and how he may not agree with their points of view.

Kyle himself declined to appear at the enquiry. The reasons for outspoken presenter’s absence are unknown. You would have thought that Jeremy Kyle would be spearheading ITVs defence, but no, he is nowhere to be seen. Is Kyle worried his appearance could make things worse? I am unsure why he has chosen not to take part in the proceedings, if he cared at all for his guests.

 

ITV bosses confirmed there is “absolutely no plans” to bring the show back (or a conflict resolution show like it). They still plan to work with Jeremy Kyle on other projects. It may be ten years late but this is definitely the right path forward for ITV (with regards to making no more shows like this) as for working with Jeremy Kyle again, I will leave that to your own judgement.

Nelly Neppach – The First Star of German Tennis

With Wimbledon in full swing (no pun intended), I wanted to take a look at a tennis player who had been driven to commit suicide. I came across the story of Nelly Neppach, a Jewish tennis star living in Nazi controlled Germany in the 1930s.

 

Born in Frankfurt in 1891, Neppach was one of Germany’s first true tennis stars. Paving the way for future winners including: Boris Becker, Steffi Graf and Angelique Kerber.

 

Discovering her skills at the age of 18, her powerful strokes and lightning pace saw her move to Berlin to pursue her dream. She played for the Tennis Borrusia club, alongside fellow Jewish tennis star IIise Friedleben.

 

Excelling in her game, Nelly was invited to the French town of Mentone, to compete in the Riviera Championships. Unaware of the violent political tensions, she had traveled without permission to the then hated neighbouring country. The act saw the anti-semitic German Tennis Federation (DTB) threaten her with with exclusion from the game.

 

Nelly was suspended but returned soon after.

 

She was unable to hit top form after the ban and struggled with her game.

 

Like all Jews, Nelly would go on to suffer immensely under the right wing extremist regime.

 

In early 1933, under the pressure of the new rulers, most of the Jewish members of the Tennis Borussia association left and the organisation ceased to exist. One month later, the DTB declares itself “Jew-pure”.


It was in the same year, Nelly Neppach would fall into a deep depression. Leaving no note, she took her own life in her apartment. Without a suicide note to confirm, it can only be assumed that having tennis taken away from her was the root cause of her depression.

The worst part was that Nelly was not alone. Many jews would commit suicide with the introduction of the Nuremberg race laws. These laws revoked the Jews living in Germany their citizenship and outlawed any marriages or sexual relations between Jews and “Aryians”. Jews could not own businesses and were segregated from society. Persecuted, most would be sent to ghettos and concentration camps. Most would not cope with the oppression.

 

We often sympathise with those people murdered in the death camps, overlooking the suffering of the people in the ghettos. Doctors, teachers, actors, tennis stars, dragged away from doing what they love. With increasing political tensions in our own country, it is important to remember what a beautiful and free country this is. Nelly Neppach was forbidden from following her passion. If we can take something from this tragic story, it is to make the most of your freedom and to chase your dreams to the end!

The War on Suicide

This weeks blog is not about a celebrity but about a group of people that should be held closer to our hearts than any celebrity: the veterans of the armed forces.

 

I work for a music studio and we recently came together with a homeless veteran to release a charity single and raise money for a number of different charities. Ones that aim to help those that are struggling after service.

 

ITV reported that 2018 saw 71 military personnel and veterans take their own lives.  This is a staggering amount and pretty much equates to one every five days. They go on to compare the death toll to that during the war with Afghanistan. Only two years from the thirteen of occupation saw more that 71 people killed.

 

It is all too common for servicemen to leave and then experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (or PTSD as it is more commonly referred to). PTSD results in flashbacks and nightmares of traumatic events and can leave a person feeling isolated. This, alongside the often poor financial support offered by the government, drives many veterans over the edge.

 

I taught a poem at GCSE that captures this idea of isolation perfectly. “The Manhunt” by Simon Armitage tells the story of a man returning from war having been critically injured whilst serving in Bosnia. Without going into too much detail on the analysis of the poem, as you can probably guess from the title, although the soldier has returned home physically, his family are still searching for the man that left to fight. In the clip posted below, the soldier talks about how something as innocent as a balloon popping at a children’s party could bring on the traumatic terror of the PTSD.

 

 

Unlike other countries, the UK doesn’t include veterans as military, meaning military suicides appear lower in numbers than that of the civilian population. In countries such as the USA, Australia and New Zealand (where veterans are included as military) the statistics for military suicides are much, much higher.

 

Seeing desperate ex-military personnel is sadly all too common and a real resolution is needed. I am constantly hearing recruitment advertisements on the radio and seeing them on tv. The governments mishandling of veterans has clearly filtered through to the younger generations, who are now deciding to opt against signing up. In the fragile political climate we live in and with Mr Trump now working with Mr Johnson, our need for protection by the military may be higher than ever and the governments mistreating of veterans could seriously come back to haunt us all.

The Death of Dr. Stephens

When I was nine, I was diagnosed with leukaemia and as a result, spent the best (or worst) part of two years in the (now demolished) Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.

 

I (alongside many others) owe my life to Professor Robert Wynn. An unbelievable master of medicine and one of the nicest guys you could meet. Another doctor of haematology at the hospital was Dr Richard Stephens.

 

I was an inpatient at the hospital on the day 54 year old Dr. Stephens went missing. He left his coat on his chair, his briefcase on his desk and his Audi in the car park.

 

At that time, I obviously had a million things on my mind but I have never forgotten the story of his disappearance and the shock and uncertainty felt around the hospital in the weeks following. Where could he have gone? He had walked into work and left soon after, not to be heard from again. I remember my parents discussing what impact a job like his could have. Treating innocent children with very serious blood diseases and the many he would not be able to save. This made me feel even more indebted to Dr Wynne, who was putting himself under great stress and strain every day to save children just like me.

 

The many people that Dr Stephens had saved would feel as grateful as I did to Dr Wynn but were now unlikely to ever get chance to show him their gratitude.

 

Dr Stephens was found dead in a Coniston Old Man mine, above Coniston Water in Cumbria, a whole six months after going missing. He had killed himself using a lethal injection, with another one prepared should the first have failed.

 

The truth was soon public knowledge. Dr Stephens could cope with the stresses and strains of his occupation but could not cope with the burden of his two and a half year affair.

 

The mistress (who was also married) would soon to approach Mrs Stephens with details of the affair (one she actually already knew about but thought was over). Under increasing pressure Dr Stephens believed there was only one way out for him.

 

He did not leave a suicide note and many of his actions indicated that he never wanted to be found. He left the hospital via an exit not covered by CCTV; he paid cash, so that his cards could not be traced; he changed into casual clothes (folding his work attire into a sports bag) and he purposely injected himself once hidden inside the horizontal mine shaft. He was trying his best to simply disappear from the life he had created and the mistake he had made.

Drugs and Depression

Drugs affect the chemical balance in our brains, often allowing us to become more relaxed and confident. The two biggest killers in the UK with regards to drug abuse are two legal ones. Tobacco and alcohol are responsible for many thousands of deaths each year.  but what affect do they have on our mental health whilst we are living?

 

In a change of lifestyle, I have been off the booze for over seven months now and I like to brag about how great I feel. With one non-alcoholic beer every now and again killing any cravings and a weekend job as a singer, I have fond it pretty easy to stop cold turkey. I no longer feel exhausted at weekends, waking up with a headache and dehydration are also a thing of the past. I feel alert and happy, almost comparable to that feeling after the first mouthful of alcohol.

 

Alcohol has been about for thousands of years. In fact, its introduction can not actually be pinpointed, but some estimate it to be from the Neolithic era, 12,000 years ago. It is now by far the most popular legal intoxicant in the UK.  Now so engrained in our society, a male in his 20s like myself gets funny looks when announcing that they don’t partake. Friends no longer like suggesting going to the pub to me (even though I am more that happy to go). To take a step back and look at societies reliance on alcohol is quite shocking.

 

This week we went to the Ashes at Old Trafford and had a great time. I had offered to drive to the cricket and this was greeted by an old friend I had not seen for a while with, “Are you really going to watch a test match and not drink all day?”. The same is met with away days in football. At what point did sport only become enjoyable when inebriated? Or is this the big draw for sport these days? The social (or antisocial depending how drunk you get) side of things. Gigs are the same. It has been great to go to concerts and actually assess them as a musician at the time and come home being able to remember the performance. I may just be getting old but friends have listened to my reasonings and some have joined me and have also agreed how great they feel, having had a break from alcohol. I am not criticising those that do drink, it is your life but those campaigns on the radio and that you see on tv asking you to cut down aren’t just there to save the NHS money. In fact, with the amount of tax on alcohol, I would be surprised it the government weren’t doing themselves out of money.  The ads are there to improve you, your physical health and your mental wellbeing.  It is all too easy to slip into the culture where you feel you have to drink every weekend and have a few with your mates in the week. Go and point out the non-alcoholic beer in the fridge and stick it in a glass and you can still feel more macho than ordering a water (just hope the bar maid doesn’t shout, “You know that that’s non-alcoholic?” or you cover is blown). In all seriousness, give it a try and you might be surprised to find how little you need to to rely on alcohol.

 

Tobacco was introduced to the UK by Sir Walter Raleigh, who brought it back from Virginia on the 27th July 1586. The popularity of cigarettes hit a high during and following the years of the two world wars. From 1914 up to the 1960’s around 80% of people over 16 smoked. Smoking helped to relieve stress and anxiety of the truly terrifying times in which they lived and up until recently, the addictions harvested during those times stuck. The last ten years have seen a major change but still people choose to take in tobacco and the addiction could be seriously impacting their mental health.

The following is taken from the NHS website:

 

“When smokers haven’t had a cigarette for a while, the craving for another one makes them feel irritable and anxious.

 

These feelings can be temporarily relieved when they light up a cigarette. So smokers associate the improved mood with smoking.

In fact, it’s the effects of smoking itself that’s likely to have caused the anxiety in the first place.

Cutting out smoking does improve mood and reduces anxiety”.

The impact tobacco and alcohol can have on our physical health is no secret and, at this point, has almost been rammed down our throats. On the other hand, the impact on our mental health is never discussed. Quitting smoking will improve your quality of life and will leave you with a more positive mood, once the initial cravings have worn off. And could you cut out alcohol? A week or two won’t have a huge impact but if you could stop drinking for a month, I can guarantee you will feel better and that feeling of freshness is just as addictive as the craving to drink. Stoctober is just around the corner, so why not jump on it?

Paddy “The Baddy”

“After I lost that last fight, I cried myself to sleep at night for about a week or two..” Former Cage Warriors Featherweight Champion talks openly about his mental health struggles.

 

Paddy “The Baddy” Pimblett decided to become a fighter at the age of 14. He watched a UFC event and then went for a run. It all sounds pretty normal, until you think that UFC cards usually finish at around 5am in the UK… The event has pushed a button inside the young Liverpudlian’s head.

A month later, Pimblett would begin training at the now famous Next Generation MMA in Liverpool. I travelled to the gym to speak with Paddy about the ups and downs of his MMA career and to find what lead to the social media post you see above.

 

It wasn’t long after he started training that his hobby had turned into his job, after his coach Owen Paul encouraged him to turn professional. As fantastic as it was for the young fighter, it meant that his main hobby had been taken away and that he would have to no dedicate his life to MMA. A jump that he was not immediately able to make. Intense weight cuts are almost unimaginably tough but Paddy “The Baddy” was also struggling to leave his old party lifestyle behind too, “I was out every weekend. I would go out on Saturday, get in, have a few hours kip, go out on Sunday, get in at like six in the morning and then I’d have two hours kip and come to the gym.”

 

Paddy won his first two professional fights before being signed to the UK’s biggest MMA promotion Cage Warriors, who’s alumni include ‘The Notorious” Conor McGregor and the UFC’s only ever English champion: Michael ‘The Count’ Bisping. He won his first fight there but would lose his second in just 35 seconds. The loss did not have the huge impact I thought it would have on Paddy’s mindset, “In MMA there’s too many ways for you to lose, that you can’t not lose…it was probably the best thing to happen to me. I was going into fights just thinking I’d smoke people, it was probably a good thing, as I ended up training harder”. In all honesty, this is not the response I expected from Paddy and I wonder whether asking the same question to an 18 year old (as he was at the time) would have gained the same response, either way it was very gracious and commendable.

 

His record did appear to back up his claims though, winning his next seven fights. He was then awarded a shot at the featherweight championship of the world, which he won. It was not long before he was being compared to superstar Conor McGregor, who had carried the same title just four years prior and had just completed his mega-money rematch with Nate Diaz.  The comparisons were not shared in the mind of Pimblett, “We’re nothing alike, he’s arrogant; I’m not. He’s stuck up his own hoop; I’m not. I liked him, especially because he came from Cage Warriors but then he just believed his own hype and went a bit too far”.

 

I had so far been unable to find what it was that was affecting Paddy. I decided to ask him straight about why he felt the need to post what he did. His reply was tragic, “Over the past 18 months I know two people that have killed themselves. One was two years older than me 25 or 26, Jay was my age or the year below. Two people hung themselves.” I replied asking Paddy whether he had ever felt that low himself and he said something that concerned me deeply, “Yes we have all had thoughts like that. I don’t know anyone that hasn’t. I’ve felt like that over the last 12 months, plenty of times.  After I lost that last fight, I cried myself to sleep at night for about a week or two…I’d walk out of my mates house and I’d just be sat there thinking about it for hours and I’d just walk out and start crying with my hood up. Walking back to ours with my head down…If it wasn’t for everyone in here [referring to the gym] I don’t know where I’d be now.”

 

Seeing a different side to “The Baddy” spurned me to ask more questions, such as the impact of the very public struggle of fellow fighter Tyson Fury, “It’s nice to hear other people say it, because you know you’re not the only one then”… It’s different for men, they [women] talk, we can’t. We feel mentally week if we go and speak to someone…It shouldn’t be like that. It really shouldn’t.” I was also interested to know whether he felt any more pressure being a fighter and he explained that people think that he’s a “hard case” that is never going to feel such low emotions, “And I do, everyone’s got the same type of brain, we’ve all got the same chemical functions that goes through our heads. Just because someone’s a fighter, it doesn’t mean that they don’t think in the same way as you, everyone thinks the same.”

 

Paddy went on further to explain more about his recent Twitter spat with former footballer and boxer Curtis Woodhouse, “People think that it’s a taboo thing. People think it shouldn’t be spoken about. Like Woodhouse the other day, saying to people to just get out of bed and go for a walk and get over it. It’s not that simple. People use drugs, people use other stuff to get their focus off it and that doesn’t help. People think you can distract yourself from it but nothing switches your brain off, it’s always there. The only was you can sort it is by getting it off your chest and speaking to someone about it.”

 

Having not fought in Cage Warriors for over 12 months due to a wrist injury, Paddy was still very positive about his future in the sport, but being out of the cage has clearly taken an impact on him, “I want to be the best MMA fighter of all time. The best there is, was and there ever will be…I’ve done this since I was 16 and fighting pro since I was 17. This is what I’ve got. This is me. I’ll be honest, if I could never fight again, I don’t know whether I’d be able to carry on.”

 

We could see Paddy “The Baddy” Pimblett back in the cage very soon. He was optimistical in giving me a time scale of two months. You can sense that he is just itching to get back into the sport that he loves and hopefully one of the biggest names in Cage Warriors can go on to fulfil his potential.

 

After winning the title, he admits the pressure did increase a bit, “There was more hype and more people talking but it comes with the territory. If you can’t handle people talking your name, you’re in the wrong sport.”

 

Says kids in general need help on social mediaWelcomes

 

Same time as TF

 

6am two hours kip go to the gym, out every weekend when you lost the belt

 

Aspirations

 

Comparison to Conor – can’t blame him for not wanting to fight with all the money he has – I would fight for free at the weekend.

Marieke Vervoort: Assisted suicide

The news broke yesterday that Belgian Paralympian, Marieke Vervoort, chose to end her life through euthanasia at just 40 years old.

 

The short distance runner (who won medals at the London and the Rio games) has an incurable degenerative muscle disease that caused pain, seizures, paralysis in her legs and an inability to sleep properly.

 

Legal in Belgium, Vervoort signed papers in 2008 to say that doctors could one day end her life.

 

Assisted suicide is not only legal in Belgium but Canada, Colombia, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Victoria (Australia) and in six US States (California, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington State). I remember watching a programme as a youngster where a British man went to Switzerland to end his life. I felt very uneasy about it at the time and that feeling has stuck with me.

 

Victoria legalised assisted suicide just this year, for people with a life expectancy of six months or less. If this stops a person who is soon to die from suffering severe pain, then I can fully see why this has been a law the Australians have passed and why it is a law many are trying to get through in the United Kingdom.

 

Switzerland has the oldest euthanasia law and it is not surprising that it is the most lax. The following is taken from www.mydeath-mydecision.org.uk:

 

In Switzerland, assisting suicide has not been a crime since suicide was decriminalised during the enlightenment. In 1918 the Swiss government pointed out that if assistance was done with selfish motives, it should be punished. Examples given were pressurising someone to take their own life with the aim of inheriting earlier than with a natural death, or having the intention of no longer needing to support a family member – clearly, immoral motives. The Swiss Federal Criminal Code was finalised in 1937 and came into force on 1 January 1942, the relevant article 115 states:

Inciting and assisting suicide:
Any person who for selfish motives incites or assists another to commit or attempt to commit suicide is, if that other person thereafter commits or attempts to commit suicide, liable to a custodial sentence not exceeding five years or to a monetary penalty.

For me, this is very worrying. All of the other countries have mention of terminal illness but not Switzerland.

 

Are the Swiss laws open to abuse? I can’t help but think that they are. There seems  to be a lot of money changing hands too, you have to question the morals of this? If I was suffering from a mental illness and told Swiss company Dignitas I wanted to die, would they help me to? After-all, the Swiss law there wouldn’t protect me, as they would not be acting “selfishly” or would they(€£$)? You can certainly see where the grey areas are.

 

So why does this concern our country? Well when you are in a country, you abide by their laws. It is thought that on average, every eight days one Briton travels abroad to die. Nearly 350 Britons have now ended their lives at Dignitas. Most will pay around £10,000 to be killed. Assisting a suicide in the UK will carry a possible prison sentence of 14 years, so of course, desperate people are willing to pay and travel to a foreign country. I can’t help but feel that a company like Dignitas will offer a comfortable and painless death and for someone with mental health issues and has the money, this could be a very appealing prospect. My worry lies mainly with the Swiss law and how it can be interpreted. You would hope that companies would not take advantage of the current law but you can certainly see that there may be a temptation to do so, with the sort of money involved.

 

Euthanasia should allow people in severe pain to die with dignity. I am no longer naive enough to think that helping a person to die is always wrong, in fact, there are many online polls that vote in favour of it being brought to Britain. The only thing I pray (and I am sure it will be) is that the law passed is as thorough and fair as the law in Victoria and not as open to abuse at the Swiss one.

Germanwings Flight 9525

It is many people’s greatest fear that their aeroplane will not make it’s intended destination.

 

In recent times, air travel has become more and more accessible, with flights being made cheaper and cheaper. Most of us fly. We are putting a lot of trust in the people that operate the planes and although it is something that many of us will try their best not to think about, one oversight or act of sabotage will likely mean immediate death for all on board and as rare as a case like this may be, we are going to look at the latter today.

 

On March 24th 2015, Germanwings Flight 9525 left Dusseldorf Airport in Germany, expecting to land at Barcalona El-Prat Airport in Spain, just a couple of hours later. The plane would crash into a mountain in the French Alps, close to Nice, around 40 minutes after takeoff. All 144 passengers and six crew members would be killed, in what appeared to surely be a tragic accident, or at worse, an act of heroism to down a hijacked plane before more lives were put at risk. The truth of the first major crash in Germanwings 18-year history was even more shocking than could have ever have been imagined.

 

Aircraft control had declared the aircraft to be in distress after losing radio contact and seeing the planes decent on radar. A French fighter jet was subsequently scrambled but it would find nothing but the charred remains of the Airbus A320-211. The plane’s black box would go on to reveal the horrific details of the awful tragedy.

 

In control of the flight were pilot Patrick Sondernheimer (who had 6,000 hours of flying experience) and co-pilot 27-year-old Andreas Lubitz (630 hours of flight experience). All appeared normal for the first half of the flight, that was until Sondernheimer returned from the toilet to find that Lubitz had locked the door to the cockpit. He attempted to use a code to enter, but the panel had been disabled. Lubitz ignored Sondernheimer’s request for entry and the pilot attempted to break down the door to gain entry. In a cruel irony, the doors to the front of the plane had been reinforced as a safety measure following the events of 911, it was this reinforced door that condemned the passengers and crew to a certain death. Screams from passengers upon impact could be heard on a recording picked up at the crash site, as well as Lubitz’s calm breathing leading up to the impact. It was concluded that Lubitz had deliberately crashed the plane, as it travelled at 400mph into the side of a mountain. It was the ultimate betrayal of trust, that struck horror into every air traveller’s hearts.

 

Who was Andreas Lubitz and what caused him to take his own life and murder 149 others, whilst fulfilling many a child’s dream career?

 

Lubitz had a history of mental health issues and it was recommended by a doctor that he needed regular medical inspections, with his medical certificates that declared him healthy being valid for one year at a time.

 

Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spehr would be quick to defend his companies choice to employ and train the pilot, “He was 100% fit to fly without any restrictions or conditions.” Air crash investigators would soon find out issues that would contradict this statement entirely.

 

Lubitz had problems with his vision and had suffered with insomnia for a number of months. He also had a doctors note excusing him from work, which covered the day of the crash. He never showed the note to the airline. Psychotropic medication was being taken by Lubitz, to ease the suffering of his psychiatric disorder. The was no way of the airline or his colleagues knowing that the pilot was unfit to fly, as the information remained confidential.

 

He shockingly practiced entering the decent that caused the crash during the landing of a previous flight. The act shows that this was premeditated and not a spur of the moment decision on the day of the fatal crash.

 

There have been some small changes in the recruitment process since the crash, with questions being designed to highlight any underlying issues. Pilots also have to have their medical licenses renewed each year. Follow-ups from a psychiatrist or psychologist are non-existent unless requested the pilot themselves and such an action could be understandably catastrophic to his or her career. You can certainly understand why a pilot would be secretive of any psychological issues they may have.

 

It is a very difficult subject but one that needs addressing as soon as possible. There needs to be clear communication of such psychological issues between the medical practitioners and the relevant authorities. It can not be left to chance that this should not happen again. It is also important that pilots do not feel like admitting they have a mental health problem as a sabotage of their own careers. Once the right treatment is in place and the appropriate tests have been carried out, the pilot should be free to take back to the skies.

Charlotte Dawson: The Impact of Cyber Bullying

In 2014, Australian model and TV personality Charlotte Dawson killed herself at the age of 47.The act was one of desperation, as a result of constant vile Twitter abuse the model had been receiving.

 

Charlotte Dawson was born in New Zealand but she would rise to fame in Australia, hosting a number of TV news programmes, before taking up her most well known role as a judge on Australia’s Next Top Model, between 2007 and 2013.

 

She was briefly married to Australian Olympic silver winning swimmer Scott Miller between 1999-2000. It was during this marriage that Dawson would make a decision that would impact her for the rest of her life. In her autobiography, Dawson would admit to aborting her child, as her husband, “Didn’t want any distractions in the lead-up to the Sydney Olympics”. It is suspected that this began Dawson’s depression, that would continue for until she chose to take her own life.

 

A suicide attempt in 2012 was unsuccessful but similar surrounding factors would eventually lead to her death. She would go back and forth with trolls until 2:07 am before posting a picture of her holding tablets captioned, “you win x” and also Tweeted, “Hope this ends the misery”.

 

The immediate aftermath of the failed suicide attempt looked positive, with Dawson spearheading many anti-bullying campaigns, which was backed by most forms of media, as well as different sporting bodies in Australia.

 

The campaigning could not mask the depression still being felt by Dawson. She had been axed from  Australia’s Next Top Model just three months before her death. Upon receiving death threats and messages including, “please hang yourself promptly” and “neck yourself you filthy s***”, she simply felt it too much to continue living her life.

 

Cyber bullying is becoming more and more common and it is not difficult to see why. Perpetrators are often difficult to identify and it is not until something as drastic as this happens, that they understand the implications of their actions.

 

In a recent survey, 81% of young people thought bullying online was easier to get away with than bullying in person and 70% of students report seeing frequent bullying online, with girls being nearly twice as likely as boys to be victims.

 

So what can realistically be done? Harsher punishments for internet trolls would be a good deterrent but it would be hard to prove who actually wrote the posts, with hacking always being a likely alibi.  The following offers great advice for those being bullied online:

 

https://www.ditchthelabel.org/cyber-bullying-top-9-tips-on-overcoming-it/?gclid=Cj0KCQiAt_PuBRDcARIsAMNlBdpmW-rzUuMM4n2lcMAeEk0kYY5Sx8XrMr8XjJWR7xoZT6Sj877F040aAtBLEALw_wcB

 

The key advice is to: never respond, screenshot, block and report, talk about it, keep your accounts private and to sympathise with others.

 

Unlike face to face bullying, cyber bullies can be removed with a simple click, which will very rarely result in the physical confrontations seen in other forms.

 

Charlotte Dawson and many others have ended their lives as a result of the actions of trolls they have never met. Trolls, in theory, should have no impact on anyone’s lives but it is becoming all too common for them to take them.

Blue Monday: Fact or Fiction?

It’s January again and not only have we arrived in a new year, but also a new decade. The holidays are over and people are now beginning to settle back into reality, which for some, may be a place where they do not want to be.

 

It is believed that the third Monday of January is the day where people feel most depressed, this is also rumoured to correlate with the annual peak of reports of suicide. The term “Blue Monday” was coined by psychologist Cliff Arnall in 2004. A Google search of the term will bring up 20th January 2020, so it seems to have been accepted in society. But is the idea of “Blue Monday” based on fact, or is there another motive behind it?

 

Cliff Arnall used the following formula to put forward his theory:

 

Put more simply:

Weather + (Monthly Salary – Debt) x Time since Christmas x Time since failing our new year’s resolution / Motivational levels x The feeling of need to take action

 

Ok, maybe not more simply, but you can understand what Arnall is getting at, even if we are struggling with the idea of the seemingly impossible calculation. There are a lot of factors that could affect a person’s mental wellbeing in January. Finances seem to be the most obvious but failing with goals so early on can also be a huge element in the feeling of negativity.

 

In contrast to this idea, you could argue Christmas itself can cause an equal amount of depression. Imagine a person who has no family or friends and as a result, does not see any of the joys that the festive season brings. They may be homeless and struggle to find the money to eat, to see the joy of others on Christmas day could push that person to breaking point. There may be a person who does have a family but is downbeat about not having enough (if any)  money to provide the Christmas that they have enjoyed in previous years.

 

My point is that depression can be brought on by many different factors throughout the year and it does seem a little far-fetched to think that the most suicides take place on the same day annually.

 

So what could be the motive behind it?

 

In 2004 when Arnall came up with the phrase, Sky Travel had contacted him help to promote their winter deals.

 

You can argue about the morals of this pitch, but Arnall has since come out and warned of the “self-fulfilling prophecy” (someone “predicting” or expecting something, and this “prediction” or expectation comes true simply because one believes it will, and their resulting behaviours align to fulfil those beliefs). Despite this, many firms still use the idea of the January blues to push their products.

 

We may not like the idea of depression and mental health being exploited for profit but in another breath, it is bringing attention to the matter. So, “Blue Monday is just a PR stunt and as a result The Mental Health Foundation came up with their own little fantastic “scientific” findings, of which I will leave you with. I believe the table fights Arnell’s theory quite nicely:

Mental Health in Football: The FA Cup “Take a Minute” Campaign

Earlier this month,  we saw a drive on mental health from the Football Association. All of the FA cup third round games started one minute later than usual.

 

“We know men in particular can be reluctant to talk about the subject, so it is important we use football as a vehicle to stress the importance of mental fitness,” FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said.

Godric Smith, chair of the Heads Up campaign, added: “The FA Cup is a competition for everyone – for clubs big and small – and we want to use its power to help show that we all have mental health and that we can all take a minute to focus on how we can start to improve it.”

 

We have talked about a lot of sports starts, men and women, who have unfortunately chosen to take their own lives. Justin Fashanu (previously covered in the blog) and Gary Speed are probably the two most famous to do so in the football world.

 

Labeled as, “The biggest-ever conversation around mental health”, the FA teamed up with charity heads up to bring the topic of mental health to the public’s attention.

 

The third round of the cup is where the Premier League and Championship teams enter, although my team (Oldham Athletic) are usually nowhere to be seen by then. This means the eyes of the world are often on these games.

 

The idea of the campaign in that we “Take a Minute” to think and talk about mental health. The first thing I did when I saw the 12:31 kick off time of the first game was investigate why. I am sure many others did the same, and although an indirect approach, it certainly worked on me.

 

Although the stigma of mental health appears to has reduced over recent years, it is great to see the countries number one sport’s governing body continue to get eyes and minds on the topic of talking and asking for help. Hopefully, we will see many more ideas like this in sport and in other sectors in the years to come.

 

Famous footballer faces, the general public and the Duke of Cambridge all helped film the following video to back the campaign:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKeHpj6aUpc

The Positive Influence of Social Media


There has been plenty of stories coming out of Australia in recent months. From the devastating wild fires to the recent toilet paper shortage due to Coronavirus. Things have been very negative down under and, as a result, you may have overlooked this story.

 

Last week, a video of nine-year-old Quaden Bayles went viral for a very upsetting reason.

 

The young boy, who has dwarfism (also known as achondroplasia) was extremely distressed and in floods of tears, when he was filmed by his mother Yarraka.

 

He was using words such as, “Give me a knife — I want to kill myself. I just want to die right now”.

 

It was made clear that the emotional outcry was a result of bullying, but the full details were made clear yesterday. Yarraka Bayles revealed that a new girl in the school (unaware of Quaden’s condition) had gone up to him, patted him on the head and laughed at him.

 

It is unlikely to be the most severe episode of bullying that he has suffered but it was enough to push a distraught Quaden to breaking point.

 

The reaction to the video was unbelievably positive. Many celebrities offered messages of support to Quaden. US comedian Brad Williams (who also has dwarfism) set up a Crowdfunding page, with a goal of £7695 ($10,000 USD) in order to send the youngster to Disneyland.

 

The power of the internet saw the total rise to nearly half a million pounds.

 

Yarraka Bayles refused the money and instead donated it to local charities that help to combat bullying. An unbelievably generous and powerful message, that must have taken a lot of willpower.

 

As Yarraka narrates the video, she claims that she was reluctant to film and post it but that she was simply out of ideas of what to do.

 

The refusal of the funds puts any accusations that the video was made for any type of personal gain to bed.

 

In previous posts, I have been very critical any wary of social media for its negative influence on society but this story is a display of how it can be used to positively shape out futures.

 

The video managed to travel across the world and touch many people’s hearts and this brought out the generous and sympathetic donations to help the young boy and subsequently, give a much needed financial boost to local charities. These charities will now hopefully be able to educate young children further on inclusion and tolerance.

 

The graphic language Quaden used was heartbreaking and I can not begin to imagine the torment the young boy has to suffer on a daily basis. I can only hope that the reaction to the video, alongside funds he has helped to raise for the charities, brings Quaden a new sense of worth and a drive in his life to improve the ignorant attitudes of others.

Elton John: Rocket Man

Elton John is one of the best pop composers of all time. His partnership with songwriter Bernie Taupin saw hit after hit, but what is the story behind Elton and why is it important to us?

 

I recently watched the film Rocketman and thoroughly enjoyed it. Not everything in the film is likely to be 100% accurate (although Elton was an Executive Producer) but we can still take a lot from it.

 

I am a huge fan of Elton’s work but was unaware of the past mental health problems that he had endured. Here is a short clip from the film that captures one of the peaks of his struggle (contains strong language):

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S1Xm1jBc84U

 

“And for my next trick, I am going to f*****g kill myself.” You can’t get much clearer in your intentions than that. This story is a little bit different to others we have covered, in that Elton was quite openly struggling with his mental health, so why was it not easy to get him back on track?

 

As many know, Elton Hercules John was actually born Reginald Kenneth Dwight. “People don’t pay to see Reg Dwight, they pay to see Elton John”. From an early age, he acted on advice to create a flamboyant and eccentric personality that people wanted to see. Although, I don’t think Reg Dwight would have been too difficult to market, Elton probably felt it much easier to turn a character’s personality over the top, than his own. When song writing, it is always easier to write about somebody else’s life and not your own. I think he took the same approach here. The problem is that Elton’s personality was so big, that it was difficult (even for himself) to know where Reg stopped and Elton started.

 

Unsupported in his dream by his mother and seemingly completely unloved by his father, it was his grandmother who pushed him to attend the Royal Academy of Music, where he spent five years honing his craft and preparing himself for greatness. He left with unbelievable skills and a fantastic knowledge of the piano. Soon after he left, his meeting with Bernie Taupin would soon change his life forever.

 

I don’t want to get too much into the story of Elton John (as you can go and watch the film yourself) but rather assess the key points that affected his mental health.

 

In another scene we see Elton call his mum from a telephone box and (after much hesitation) declare that he was gay. Elton loved his parents very much, this is clear but you constantly get the sense that he was not loved the way he wanted to be by both of his parents. Elton is told (by his mum) that he will never truly be loved, because he is gay. Elton’s quest to change this is perfectly encapsulated at the start of the film with the family singing his hit “I Want Love”, all taking on different sections of the song individually.

 

In fact, one of the most harrowing things about the film is seeing how well Elton’s songs fit his story of his life.

 

During his performance of Rocket Man (just after his suicide attempt) Elton gets off the stretcher and straight on to the stage in Los Angeles in his iconic baseball outfit. It is quite obvious that this didn’t happen in real life but it is interesting to think about why these scenes lead in to each other. Was performing the drug killing Elton or the antidote that was saving him?

 

Elton does claim to have taken “every drug known to man” and would often turn up to gigs high or drunk, not really knowing what city he was in. He later confesses his fears that he won’t be as good on stage without drink and drugs but would soon extinguish these thoughts.

 

One of the people that knew Elton best, Bernie Taupin, pleaded with him to follow his lead and take a break. Elton refused, stating that it was a perfect time to begin working with other writers. This was possibly a change to heart Bernie. Elton maybe trying to see somebody else feel the pain he was suffering? You can tell it upset Bernie, so it is possible that this is the reason for Elton’s response.

 

A stranger part of the film comes when Elton appears to fall in love with (and subsequently marry) Renate Blauell. The next scene after the wedding (an event where Elton’s mum look wholly unconvinced) shows the newly married couple staying is separate rooms and of course, the marriage does not last long. Was this part of the quest to feel loved by following his mother’s advice? Highly likely, but it didn’t really work, as Elton did not feel romantically in love with Renate.

 

Things were getting so bad for his family, that his mum (now divorced) and step father wanted to move to Majorca to get away from the problems and heartache that Elton was causing them. His mum says he’s never worked for anything, he got lucky and that it is disappointing to be his mother. You can tell that although Elton was putting on a brave face, his actions in his quest for love had actually drove his parents away further. Elton also visits his father, who now has two sons with another woman. Both are sat on his knee and his father seems the loving father that everybody wants. Had he just grown up and realised how a father should act, or did he hold something against Elton?

 

Something seems to click for Elton after this. One of my favourite quotes from the film is, “For so long, I felt resentful for things that just don’t matter”. Elton confronts all his daemons at the end of the film. He goes through his family and acquaintances (possible in his own mind) to tell them where he was at emotionally with them. He tells off the ones who are at fault and others, such as Bernie, how much he loves and appreciates them. He finishes by hugging his younger self and confessing he hasn’t been Reg Dwight for years. It appears Elton has found himself (Reg) once again!

 

The film finishes with the hit, “I’m Still Standing” a fantastic and spine tingling finale. We are told how Elton has now been sober for 28 years and counting. How he has set up an aids charity and raised over $450 million. And how he is now happily married to David Furnish (also a producer on the films) and together they have two children, Zachary and Elijah.

 

This story certainly has a happy ending and now Sir Elton John is a national treasure. I feel we could all benefit from making peace in our heads with the people who have wronged us and the ones that we have wronged. “For so long, I felt resentful for things that just don’t matter”. Enjoy today and live for tomorrow.

The Coronavirus and Mental Health

It has been nice to see that mental health has been considered during this pandemic. Even five years ago, it probably wouldn’t have got a mention.

The Government has continued to allow outdoor exercise, not only for physical but also emotional and mental wellbeing. They have recently gone further in their guidelines, stating people are ok to “move to a friend’s address for several days to allow a “cooling-off” following arguments at home” and are still welcome to buy ‘non-essential’ items from the supermarket during a weekly shop. This will be a long and difficult time for ourselves and our loved ones, so what can we do to protect our and their mental health?

Stay In Touch

I am one of the lucky ones. I am (relatively) young and (kind of) healthy. I have only just moved in with my (now) fiancée, so we don’t hate the way the other breaths just yet and we have no children climbing up the walls either. We can get out to exercise, we can agree pretty easily what to have for dinner and we are both old enough to understand and accept the situation.

I have friends and family who are struggling, as I am sure you do too. It is vital that we stay in touch with the ones that are less fortunate than ourselves. I am now in cyber quizzes with family and friends three nights of the week and it is great! I also taught my 87 year old grandad how to Facetime just before this all came about, so that was lucky too but I am sure that a phone call is just as meaningful and touching to the elderly as a video call. If you can offer to help an elderly/lonely person in any way, then please do so. If not, I am sure that for many, you being that person they can talk to over the phone may be all the help they need.

 

Exercise
You may not be into running but if you want to start, then walking may be a way of building your stamina. If you don’t want to do that then why not source a bike? You may have one deep in your shed or garage or if you have the money, then you can buy one from an online store. If you don’t like exercising in public, a lot has been made of Joe Wicks exercise sessions but I am sure you can find plenty of other sources for home workouts. Yoga can be an amazing way to exercise for people who need low impact workouts. It can do wonders for conditions such as sciatica, a condition where doing nothing is the worse thing you can do. Being in psychical pain will no doubt bring on problems in your mind, it is important to stay active, now more than ever.

 

Activities

As I eluded to earlier, it is a huge shame the ones most in danger here (the elderly) are the ones least likely to have grasped using tablets and laptops as a source of entertainment. Don’t get me wrong, I am sure there are plenty of elderly people that can but I am also sure that there are plenty of elderly people that cannot. In what ways can we help these people? Well, what about dropping off something they can do? If it’s a couple, drop off a board game you don’t use anymore. Do they like painting, sewing, knitting, playing cards? If you don’t have any of those things lying around, then just buy them a quiz book next time you go to Tesco. I am sure a large print one would be greatly received.

This is a frustrating time for the majority of us, but it is vital that we empathise with those less fortunate. Although we are all apart temporarily, “together (metaphorically or at a safe distance) we are stronger” has never been more true.

 

Coronavirus: Looking to the Future


This post is from a teacher that I worked with a few years ago.

In the last blog, we thought about other people’s mental health during the pandemic but what about our own?

I have walked in Elaine’s shoes. I was not suited to teaching and of the many teachers I know, I could count on one hard the ones that truly enjoyed it and were not at the end of their tether with stress.

Most jobs come with negatives but if you are in a job that brings stress, then it should not be to the point where your life is not a happy one to lead.

Similar to Elaine, I decided to make a bold move. I quit my job and moved to Australia for a year. Whilst there, I thought about my dreams and how I could go about aching them. My passion was singing. Luckily, I had taught myself guitar at age 14, so I took time to make a plan on how I could turn my hobby into a full time career.

 

In short (despite making money elsewhere) I would be able to support myself using the income I make from singing and I am very proud to say that. Don’t get me wrong, teaching taught me more than any job I have ever had. It built my confidence in front of an audience (often a particularly negative one) and dramatically improved my writing skills, I am sure the jobs you have had in the past have helped to shape the person you are today too.

 

I am well aware that not everyone is in a position to simply quit their job and move to Australia but if you are not happy, isn’t this the perfect opportunity to think about what you want to do to improve your life and your career? You have something you probably haven’t had much of in the past: time. Could you complete a course online? Enrol at university or college for next year (just like Elaine has)? Learn an instrument? Read books on the sector you are interested in? Watch Youtube videos to learn new skills?

It doesn’t have to be a case of “all in” either. When things go back to normal, you could think about working a part time job if you are thinking about partaking in a full time course.

Everyone is in a different predicament. It is easy to feel trapped, even without a mortgage, kids and a car on finance, but change is still possible if you work hard and look in the right places. We can only try to source the positives from these extraordinary times. If you are unhappy, then please try to use this down-time to make a positive change to your life.

Trial by Media – Series 1, Episode 1

I am currently engrossed in the new Netflix series “Trial by Media”.

 

The six episodes look at cases influenced by journalism in the world’s capital for over-the-top sensationalism, you guessed it, the USA.

 

These cases put forward strong arguments for the prosecution and defence and often leave a real question on who is actually to blame.

 

The first episode focuses on a murder, but one that occurred in very bizarre and unique circumstances.

 

In March 1995, Jonathan Schmitz and Scott Amedure (along with a female friend) were guests on an increasingly popular style of television format: the tabloid talk show.

 

Long before the days of the late Jeremy Kyle show (definitely don’t miss) was the Jenny Jones show. The US had other similar shows in Ricky Lake, Jerry Springer and Maury. All follow a similar format: get two or more sticks of dynamite – throw a match – see what happens (whilst pretending you are not there hoping for an explosion).

 

So, back to Jonathan and Scott. Jonathan was on the show to find out who his secret crush was. Yep (you guessed it again) it was Scott. Jonathan seemed genuinely shocked but appeared to take it in good spirits, even when Scott was describing the lewd acts that he would like to perform on him. Although clearly uncomfortable and not exactly ready to leave hand-in-hand with Jonathan, Scott was laughing and appeared jovial, yet embarrassed.

 

Three days later, Jonathan Schmitz confronted Scott Amedure and shot him in the chest three times with a shotgun. Sounds like a clear-cut case of premeditated (first degree in the US) murder but this was not the way the case went.

 

The Defense

 

Jonathan Schmitz

 

The defendant had a history of mental health problems. In court it was detailed how he was beaten by his father from an early age.

 

Age 24 at the time of the murder, Schmitz was diagnosed with Graves’ disease. The condition is a result of the thyroid over-producing hormones. The effects include irritability, muscle weakness, insomnia, hyperactivity, and eye bugling. People with Graves’ disease may also experience behavioural and personality changes that include: psychosis, mania, anxiety, agitation, and depression. We know that Schmitz was also diagnosed with manic depression.

 

Prior to the show, people had asked if he was gay. In a time where being homosexual was much less socially acceptable, the outcome of the show would likely have been devastating for Schmitz, who probably felt he would be taunted more so afterwards.

 

 

Once the crime had been committed, Schmitz called the police immediately to confess. He came across as genuinely upset and shaken by the events that had occurred and definitely not as a psychopathic killer. This certainly makes us think where Schmitz mind was at. Could there have been more to the story?

 

Scott Amedure

 

An openly gay man, Amedure had a mutual friend with Schmitz and this is how they met. I am not sure whether he was ever truly confident that Schmitz was going to admit similar feelings, especially on television but he had a good go at trying to convince him.

 

Scott Amedure does get quite graphic in one of his fantasies involving Jonathan. For a straight man, who is taunted about being gay, you can understand how this would have likely left Schmitz feeling.

 

After the show, evidence was heard how Scott left a sexually suggestive note outside Schmitz house. Once again, the taunting and possible shame Schmitz felt was being rubbed in his face. For Scott (who was likely unaware of Schmitz mental health) this may have been playful and innocent, or it may have been more sinister.

 

When Schmitz did confront Amedure, he did not originally approach with a shotgun. After a verbal altercation Schmitz went to his car to get the gun. This indicated to the jury that he did not necessarily go there to kill Scott but whatever was said in the altercation pushed Schmitz to end Scott’s life. Could it have been Scott’s refusal to end the provocative notes and fight for Jonathan’s affections?

 

Jenny Jones

 

There is no doubt that the public humiliation of Schmitz played a huge role in Scott Amedure’s murder. Jenny herself came across quite badly in the dock. I am quite sure she knew the purpose of her show (and the many others like it) were to embarrass and shame members of the public who were likely coming from troubled backgrounds.

 

The producers did not get off lightly either and rightly so. No real checks were made into Jonathan’s mental health and the implications of this were demonstrated in the cruellest and most extreme way imaginable. It was likely only a matter of time until something like this was to happen.

 

The Verdict

Jonathan Schmitz was found guilty of second-degree murder (likely because he was able to argue both provocation and diminished responsibility). He was sentenced to a minimum of 25 years in jail and was released from prison after 22 years in August 2017, aged 47.

In 1999, The Amedure family were originally successful in suing The Jenny Jones Show, Telepictures and Warner Bros (the shows owners) for $29 million, however, this decision was later overturned.

 

It’s easy to think about the old cliché “Only in America” but (as looked at in the early blogs) The Jeremy Kyle Show only came to an end here a couple of years ago. It took a death to highlight to ITV how out of date these shows were. We are fortunate that we no longer really see formats like this anymore. I don’t doubt that there will be an attempted resurgence in years to come but hopefully our acceptance and sympathy for mental health and our evolution as human beings in general will leave “trash tv shows” like these in the past.

Carlo DePetrillo On The Role Barber Shops Play In The Fight Against Men's Mental Health Problems

This week I had the pleasure of speaking with Oldham based barber Carlo DePetrillo regarding a course he has recently completed in relation to mental health. The Lions Collective is an organisation that has set out to improve the help that barbers are able to offer to their customers. Check out the full interview below: