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Robert Enke’s story is more important than Rio Ferdindand’s

Posted on 30 September 2011 | 6:09am

While the press revels in the judgement that allows them to carry on with kiss and tell stories about footballers (provided they are England captain it would seem) I would like to focus not on Rio Ferdinand but on Robert Enke.

He was the German goalkeeper who killed himself after a long battle with depression, panic attacks and anxiety, much of it seemingly rooted in fear of failure.

His story is now told in a book written with the co-operation of Enke’s family, by a close friend Ronald Reng, and even if you don’t love football as much as I do, it really is worth a read.

When I wrote my first novel, All In The Mind, which is about mental illness, one of the comments which meant the most to me was from friend and colleague Charlie Falconer, who said it really helped him understand what depression must be like. For people who don’t get depression, why should they understand? But until most of us do understand, it is unlikely depression will get the attention and understanding it merits.

So books like ‘A Life Too Short,‘ (Yellow Jersey Press), which set out in real detail Enke’s life and death, and his battle with the demons raging inside his mind and body, will hopefully help more people see that depression is not a fad, not a lifestyle choice, not even a question of being fed up from time to time, but an illness that can have the most horrific consequences.

I mentioned his fear of failure. But football is a macho world, and there is also the fear of his team-mates and colleagues thinking him weak. And when he and his wife Teresa lose a child, and go on to adopt, there is the fear the authorities won’t let them keep their new daughter if they know about his illness. All this helps reinforce the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness.

It is a very moving story, well told, not least because we see so much from his wife’s perspective as well. There is one poignant passage where she makes him promise her that he will never kill himself. It is all the more powerful because of course we know the ending. He clearly adored his wife and yet even that, and the hurt he knew he would cause, could not in the end stop him from taking his life. If anything should stop and make us think about the power of depression, that should.

## coincidentally, this came in on my blog this morning …

Alastair, thought you might be interested in this, from the FC United of Manchester fans website:

The North West Mental Health Football League promotes football for people dealing with mental health issues in their lives.

Up to a third of us experience some level of mental health problems. Football is not only great exercise but is a way of overcoming the stigma that can result.

A six-a-side tournament is taking place on Thursday 22nd of September from 12 noon to 3pm with teams from Greater Manchester the North West and further afield. The venue is Power League near the Trafford Centre.

FC United are supporting this tournament and one of our players will be
presenting the trophy. Anyone is welcome to attend.

For more details email:

ps, well done Shamrock Rovers fans last night. I have rarely seen or heard such fantastic 90 minute support

  • Thank you for this post. Yes, love for and from our spouse and children often compel us away from tragedy but being convinced that they would indeed be far, far better off unburdened by our still being here can be an equally dark force, such is the overwhelming power of depression.
    I’m finally learning something of the role of exercise and external activity in all of this. Must be the etherial presence of Lord Tebbit of Chingford. I’ve got back on my bike. After 10 years of depression, anxiety and socio-phobia, cycling/pushing my bike around empty Pennine lanes in the autumn is proving beneficial. I do not know how to do anything in moderation so am already building castles in the air – charity rides of all flavours and the Camino again across Spain. Sancho Panza, I suppose.

  • Andywalker6

    Really great piece. I will read the book and make a donation to Mind.

    Keep doing this.

    Andy Walker

  • Olli Issakainen

    One of my all-time favourite TV series is Dempsey & Makepeace.
    In one episode James Dempsey says that “life is hard, and then you die”.
    No wonder many people are depressed!
    Today´s bleak economic outlook does not help.
    According to Matthew Parris market correction will mean that Britons will be 25% poorer than today.
    If things go well, which I very much doubt as there is no growth in the eurozone thanks to austerity measures, Britain will fully recover from 2008-09 economic crisis in 2031.
    One of Britain´s most respected writers Charles Moore stated in the Telegraph that Europe faces a disaster, and millions will lose their jobs.
    There is insecurity in Middle England.Amid all this it is quite natural to be depressed.
    As I have told before, I am a Christian.
    The best thing about being a one is that you can be happy and have a peace of mind no matter what the circumstances around you are.
    And, of course, after death eternal life in brilliant conditions awaits us.
    The current chaos in the world was predicted in the Bible long time ago. The Bible predicts a one-world government and a one-world currency at the end of times.
    Before it gets better, it gets worse.
    But for us the Christians these difficult days ahead mean that the time of our liberation is near.
    By being a Christian you can get a peace of mind and eternal life – for free!

    • ambrosian

      I think you are confusing ‘reactive depression’ with ‘endogenous depression’. Most severe, clinical depression is the latter and is not a reaction to external or environmental circumstances such as loss of job or death of a loved one……or indeed economic crises and government policies.

      Whilst I’m pleased for you that your religious faith makes you so happy, I’m bound to point out that many religious people also suffer from depression.

  • Ehtch

    Robert Enke’s story is more important than Carlos Tevez struggling relationships with european footie managers, too.

    Bloody euros, said Tevez, alledgedly…

  • Anna

    It is a tragedy when people suffering from depression are driven to end their lives as there is a lot of evidence to show that it is the mental illness that responds best to treatment, though sadly, not in very case. It is hard for sufferers in the depths to be able to envisage recovering a more positive outlook on life, not least because at its worst, the illness paralyses the will and makes it almost impossible for sufferers to take steps to help themselves.

    Finding the treatment best suited to an individual is difficult and there is no certain cure-all: a sympathetic doctor and medication can help, as can exercise and talking therapy – either to a trained professional or a patient friend. Self-help books are generally not very helpful, though I’ll make an exception for ‘Change for the Better’ – the authors’s name, sadly, escapes me. This book really did help me to turn my life around.

    If someone you love is suffering from depression, move heaven and earth to get them to accept. some sort of help.  The husband of a woman who committed suicide, even though he loved her dearly, said, ‘The hardest thing is knowing that my love wasn’t enough’. That is so sad.

    And, as I’ve said before, we need a new name for this dreadful illness, to distinguish it from feeling low, fed up, a bit ‘depressed’ as we all are from time to time.

  • Quinney

    Thanks for highlighting FC United Ally, we believe that there is to football than money and so called kiss and tell superstars. Our club brings kids in care, persistent young offenders, refugees to football games. The more we can highlight mental illness the more it will come out of the shadows of not being talked about.
    Re Shamrock Rovers, nice try boys but you never heard our lot in the FA Cup at Rochdale!

  • Dave Simons

    The Jehovah’s Witnesses have been telling us all this for some time. The only trouble is there’s no truth in any of it. None of us know what’s round the corner, never mind what happens after death. Neither you nor anyone else is in a position to sell fellow mortals a celestial insurance policy which guarantees peace of mind and eternal life in brilliant conditions. The current crisis in the world was not predicted by any of the many authors of what has become known as ‘The Bible’ – they didn’t even get the age of the earth and its solar system right. In fact they were wrong by aeons. 
    All this may sound a trifle dogmatic and Richard Dawkinsish but I’m only parrying your contribution. As for Matthew Parris, who’s he to talk about market corrections and 25%-down poverty, as, according to his own easily-lampooned testimony in ‘The Times’ recently,  he bustles round the streets of gentrified Limehouse with bags full of gold bullion? Remember ‘I’m Alright, Jack’?

  • Margaret_simpson

    Thank you for recommending this book, I am awaiting the postman to deliver it to me from Amazon.  I have depression for the last 3 years and hope that it will help my husband to try and understand a bit more about mental illness.
    Once agin, many thanks, Margaret

  • Ehtch

    Have a good freiend that had a father that went through WWII merchant Navy and survived by the skin of his feeth, then had health problems, and went down to his cellar in Pendine, West Wales, and hung himself to death, even after all he went though.Still great friends with his son, Bobby.

  • MicheleB

    I read that Robert Enke’s natural daughter had died in infancy and his intense depression from continuing grief was leaving him scared that their adopted daughter would be removed from their care by social services.

    That’s all truly awful but I really can’t understand someone choosing the method he did to kill himself.  There are so many people involved and affected forever in such an incident and the horror for whoever had to ID him is something several of us might know about.

    I wish he’d had the extra support he needed but doubt it was possible. 

  • MicheleB

    Ooops, just re-read the OP 6th para …

  • Wilf Whittle

    Great piece, Alastair. It does seem, sadly, that depression will never receive the attention it deserves. Like all ‘under-rated’ mental illnesses, it merely attracts a stigma and a stereotype and public understanding is totally void of the complexities and horrors it presents. I myself went through a period of depression as a result of experiencing terrible acne; it was manifested on virtually all of my face and the upper parts of my back and shoulders. This was a very malignant form of acne, I might add, and produced such sensitive ‘spots’ on my shoulders that I could never shower (only bath) and could not wear certain types of clothing that would ‘fuse’ onto my skin, causing terrible pain. It was the most awful period of my life, and made so much worse that my fellow friends could only understand the outward physical issues (such as vanity) and totally overlooked the inner anxieties it caused. 
    I have to say Alastair, having read various articles and blogs you have written, as well as watching the conversations you have had about depression on television, truly inspiring. I completely agree that we need to raise awareness of depression and make people understand that it is actually one of the worst illnesses, as there is no ‘cure’ like there is for some many ailments. Also, judgement in the legal sense, i.e. a court ruling, is spelled ‘judgment’ (no ‘e’), just thought I’d put that one out there! Best wishes.

  • MicheleB

    AC’s book is incredible Margaret; a friend who’s LibDem through and through and anti-so much else of the left credits it for getting her through as much as she did. 

  • Olli Issakainen

    The birth of Israel (1948) was predicted in Ezekiel 37.
    The next war in the Middle East (Russia, Iran, Turkey etc. v Israel) in Ezekiel 38 & 39.
    The Book of Daniel tells about the European Union.
    Jesus in Matthew 24 tells about the signs of end of times. He also predicts the birth of Israel in it.
    The Book of Revelation talks about one-world government and a single currency with microchip implants (Rev 13).
    The technology for this is ready.
    China has asked for a single world currency. UN is suggesting it. IMF is behind the idea.
    People behind the Bilderberg Group are planning a one-world government.
    If you want to know about this in plain language, see David Wilkerson´s The Vision.
    In it (1973) he predicted “worldwide recession caused by economic confusion”. Sounds any familiar?

  • MicheleB

    The pretence that Israel was ordained to be forever the property of people of the first Abrahamic religion was built around what he claimed he saw in the desert, perhaps the world didn’t yet know about hallucinations and dehydration so nobody corrected or laughed at him or patted him on the head and told him to lie down.

    How anyone can claim to (or actually) believe all that should explain why their ‘creator’ would ordain that any part of the world they believe he created could be their property and theirs alone.

    The Zionists have had their way, they have exploited something so horrible and the suffering of so many to sit their purposes.  Thank heavens that many Jewish people can see right through them and know the land grab is not really in their name.  Their reward is to be called ‘self-hating Jews’.

    Until a couple of years ago the Israeli Govt website stated its main aim was for the country’s entire legal system to be Zionist; someone behind the scenes has explained the bad impression to them and it no longer mentions the word.  That doesn’t mean the ambition has disappeared.

    There are of course also people that pretend to laud the Zionist ambitions, it’s a good cover for their actually just not wanting Jewish people in their own country.

  • Quinney

    Ally, here is a report of the FC United tournament. Anytime you want to come and see what we’re about you’re more than welcome.

  • Dave Simons

    To take one item out of many, Matthew 24 almost certainly refers to the lifetime of the disciples, not to any far-ahead date. The ‘little apocalypse’ didn’t happen of course, so it has had to be postponed time and time again.I think the historical Jesus has been grossly misrepresented – he never claimed to be God made human, washing away the sins of humanity by getting crucified. He was more likely a fundamentalist who wanted to sweep the Pharisee stables clean and get back to basics. He didn’t bargain for celebrity culture!
    I have had a look at David Wilkerson’s work since you last mentioned him, and I’m sorry but I dismiss him as a crank. There are a lot of them about and I suppose there always has been. I’m surprised that you go along with this kind of stuff, since your economic analyses are often perceptive and detailed. As I said in a recent post, any time now someone’s going to dust off Nostradamus and start relating ‘The Centuries’ to modern times and personaities, just like Goebbels and Al Stewart in previous decades. Was it Shakespeare’s Puck who said, “Lord, what fools these mortals are!”

  • Olli Issakainen

    The Bible does not say anything about the age of earth.
    Bishop James Ussher (1581-1656) has said that the earth was created on Sunday, 23 October 4004BC.
    He said this in 1650.
    Young Earth Creationism represents only one school of thought within Christianity.
    I recommend you to read Michael Ruse´s Can A Darwinian Be A Christian (Cambridge UP). He is a leading expert on the philosophy of biology. He is NOT a believer.
    In my opinion God should not be mixed with scientific theories as it is a category mistake.
    St Aquinas stated that God is outside time and place.
    Anyway, methodological naturalism rules out God from science.
    Ludwig Wittgenstein is his later thinking on the philosophy of language (Philosophical Investigations, 1953) saw language as a multiplicity of language-games.
    The Bible should not be read as a history book with every sentence being  an argument on which we can decide whether it is right or false.
    Religion is a matter of practice.
    Intellectualising the practice is wrong.
    Religion is not a theory.
    Real religion is immune to Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris.
    The mystery of religion is unapproachable by reason or language.
    It is important to distinct between mythos and logos.
    Logos has limitations. It cannot tell the MEANING OF LIFE.
    That belongs to the realm of myth.
    For further information, see Karen Armstrong´s brilliant book The Case for God.
    I have studied Bible prophecy for 30 years. There will be economic collapse and a global currency after the dollar collapses. All big players want it.
    After the economic collapse one-world goverment (10 zones) will be the solution.
    Certain well-known banker even admits this openly in his memoirs on the page 405.
    I am a Christian because God gave me a gift of faith. 

  • Dave Simons

    The Gadarene swine had faith- as had a lot of German people in Hitler and the Thousand years of the World Reich. Faith is a load of rubbish – it’s nothing more than an excuse by some people who need it to counter any argument against anything. Give us a break, mate! Do you think we haven’t heard all this bullshit before? Grow up, I say. OK you have studied the Bible prophecy for thirty years – so have and I haven’t been too impressed. Should I have been? Some people obviously need simple answers – that’s my conclusion.

  • Dave Simons

    There were people living in Canaan before the Hebrews conquered it. The Bible records that. So the idea that the Jews/Hebrews have any special claim on that territory is flawed from the start. The post-1948 situation has been one of aggressive expansionism. Ironically, the Jews, victims of racism, have practised a racism comparable to that of their oppressors. There will be no peace in the Middle East until the Zionists are stopped.

  • Rebecca Hanson

    Have people noticed the black dog campaign?

    I think it’s good.

  • MicheleB

    I think the predicament has been exploited by more than the Zionist
    movement and given that the UN was coerced in to what happened post-WWII has now got a rough dirty problem.

    An eye on oil movements was needed in the middle-east for price maintenance but all of that is becoming outdated and the pros and cons of Israel are fast becoming all negatives.

    I don’t envy TB and others with all this to handle, especially with certain hacks doing their best to sully reputations (do I really mean the two plurals or is it just one of each?).

  • MicheleB

    …………….. “The Bible should not be read as a history book with every sentence
    being  an argument on which we can decide whether it is right or false.”……………

    Quite so Olli and neither should it be read as a prescription or prediction that the world has to follow (especially while trying very hard to parallel its predictions with what has become actual – ignoring what hasn’t).

    I’m surprised that someone of your eminent usual logicality can extol about it in this way; you’re in good company though as I can’t understand TB becoming Catholic either; why wasn’t merely being of any denomination enough for a determined Christian? 

    I find it especially puzzling because Catholicism was the only religion behind all of the Crusades … surely certain people need to remember that many countries resented and overthrew it too their very selves!


  • Gilliebc

    Dave just because you and many others don’t “get it” faith that is, doesn’t justify you trying to rubbish the views and genuine “God given” faith of others.

    You cannot compare the faith that some people had in Hitler, something you have done before, to the faith that Christians have in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost/Spirit.  The Christian faith and belief is way above and beyond any earthly comparison!  Those who don’t have faith will never be able to understand that.

    When you are out and about walking and visiting old churches and what not Dave,  why don’t you try lowering your spiritual guard once in a while and allowing the possibiity of at least the beginning of a spiritual awakening?  We are all much more than just flesh and blood.  By ruling out the possibility of a relationship with God you and many others are denying yourselves a true understanding of what life is all about.  The fact that we live now in a very unequal society because the (mainly hidden) wealthy ruling elite are practising satanists!  This is not a joke or an over-statement in any way.  So if these people believe in and worship satan, which they do.  There is much evidence to support this fact.
    Then I find it amazing that so many other people find it in any way strange that others choose the side of good i.e. God.

    The time will soon be upon us when those that remain sitting on the fence will be forced to choose a side.  Being just a good person will not be enough.  People will have to openly declare their positions.  Will they trot along like good citizens and allow themselves to be micro-chipped? otherwise known as the mark of the beast!  Or, will they be prepared to say no even if it means almost certain death.  That will be the moment that the wheat will be sorted from the chaff and we can look forward to a world that is fair and equal for all that remain.

    Here endeth the lesson 🙂

  • Dave Simons

    Thanks for the sermon Gillie – at least I prefer your comments to Olli’s recycled ‘End of the World is Nigh’ prophecies. I also agree with you when you say ‘ We are all much more than just flesh and blood’. I’ve had a few out-of-body experiences myself, though I might have been just pissed at the time. But I do tire of everyone from Cliff Richard to Jimmy Saville telling me that you can’t prove it or disprove it so all you are left with is faith. Incidentally the two I’ve mentioned conveniently gloss over that passage about it being easier to get a camel through a needle’s eye than a rich man into the Kingdom of Heaven. (Contrary to what a succession of ‘Thought for Today’ Holy Joes have said, the ‘needle’s eye’ is probably a narrow gate through a walled city like Jerusalem. Your worldly luggage is on your camel’s back, so to get the camel through the narrow gate you have to shed your worldly goods – in other words, give up your wealth.)

  • Nick

    So the Bible can’t tell us anything about what *has* happened, but is an accurate predictor of what *will* happen?


  • Gilliebc

    Thanks for your reply Dave.

    Regarding the camel through the eye of a needle thing.  To me it’s just an example of not trying to store up treasures on earth.  Where they rust etc.

    I am a firm believer that all the best things in life are indeed free!

    If we had stuck with a bartering system we’d all be much happier and better people imho.

  • Tony Nuttall

    Hi Alastair,

    Thanks for mentioning the North West Mental Health Football League tornament on you Blog.  The tournament went well, with probably 100-150 people participating from Manchester and other parts of the country.  The It’s a Goal team from Macclesfield Town were the eventual winners but all had a great day.

    I need to give credit to a voluntary organisation called Grassroots Initiatives, based in Manchester and Salford, who organised the tournament and have been developing the North West Mental Health Football League for the last few years.  The great job they are doing needs to be recognised.  Their website is

    FC United, as you probably know, are developing a supporter owned and run football club for Greater Manchester.  The club is committed to benefitting the communities that it serves and has a large and active community programme.  We are keen to promote football for people who have mental health problems as part of this programme.  The community page of our website is at and to follow us on Twitter please see @fcumcommunity:disqus

    Tony Nuttall
    FC United Office