This morning I spotted a tweet praising this article in the Daily Mail. Whilst it makes some interesting points about the gruesome nature of suicide, its main point is that suicides of famous people act as a spur for others to do the same and, in doing so, they join a group of essentially selfish people. And in making this case it employs academic studies (somewhat ironically for the Daily Mail) which are as far removed from the actual feelings of those involved as they can be. Speaking from the perspective as a trained researcher and academic, these studies are unlikely to tap into real emotions felt by people. In their search for generalisable conclusions they miss the unique nature of each individuals case. More so, research subjects rarely speak that openly and honestly about the non-personal issues which affect their lives, let alone emotions so provide only partial insight of the veneer. We say what we think others want to hear. And perhaps these fuel the behaviours they claim to dissect and understand.
I actually feel insulted by this article. As someone who once had these feelings, I can say with all honesty that I was not inspired by anybody else. I felt selfish in having these thoughts and about the consequences of that course of action. Martin Samuel would do well to refocus on his opening paragraph and in particular these lines:
More worrying are those that have not; those nobody knows about, that are alone in tackling depression, or addiction, or feelings of helplessness. The section of the community who see Speed’s end not as tragedy, but grim inspiration.
We know from a range of real, anecdotal evidence that this exists yet we perpetuate in creating environments in which these feelings are incubated and grow. His article is unlikely to inspire many of them to speak out and discuss their thoughts, fears and psychological demons. Whilst Gary Speed’s death is still to raw to analyse with any objectivity the other cases that Samuel highlights surely indicate to the academic and layman alike that there is a trend here which needs to be better understood if the root causes are to be addresses and the deaths prevented. I would expect more from the Sports Journalist of the Year if journalism isn’t being proved to be so toxic itself. I’m sure there’s an academic paper in that but for the time being read it for yourself and make up your own mind.