Laura and I were lying in bed last night. It was around 11.30. Late for me to be up but we’d just ended an infuriating pursuit of a mouse that had been merrily skirting round our landing for the best part of a week, recklessly eating chocolate out of traps without bearing the consequences. The only light in the room was from Laura’s phone as she did her late night scrolling. We have very different ways of shutting down me and my wife. I was almost asleep when she rolled over and told me an Irish League footballer had died. She knew I’d want to know. I love football, particularly the Irish League. I was surrounded by sleep fog and I turned over on to my back and propped myself up on my elbows and read the story off her phone. The player in question was Jerry Thompson. I didn’t know who Jerry Thompson was but he played for Carrick Rangers. I have a season ticket at my local team Coleraine, but due to the lack of media coverage of our league I wouldn’t have a great knowledge of all the players from the smaller teams who play in it. Carrick had just been promoted this season so I wasn’t surprised I didn’t know him. I don’t know if it’s because of my own experiences or its just because it seems to be a growing problem, but every time I hear of someone relatively young passing I get an uneasy feeling. I don’t want it to be that. I know either way the death is tragic but I don’t want it to be that kind of tragic. Details in the story on Laura’s phone were still limited and so I drifted into sleep wondering what happened Jerry. He was only 24
Jerry Thompson was the first thing on my mind when I got up to start the milking this morning shortly after 5. Details were still scarce at that hour but as the morning wore on it became apparent that Jerry Thompson had taken his own life. Unfortunately it was that kind of tragic. Carrick were playing Glenavon last night and Jerry was named in the starting line up after being man of the match on Saturday against Institute but he never showed up to the game. It soon became apparent why.
I obviously don’t know Jerry Thompson or his history or what ultimately led to such a tragic end of a young life. But all day I’ve been wondering (yet again) why young men have such problems coming forward with their problems. Jerrys story is made all the more tragic in that he was a new father, his son being just 7 months old. A lot of people will perhaps think how could he do this? How could he ‘abandon’ his son who would never grow to know him? In many ways you might think this would give him so much to live for but from my own personal experience I’ve found out that the more you have the harder it can actually be to seek help.
One of the hardest things in my life was to tell Laura about the hood. To come clean as to how I was feeling. I was scared, I was embarrassed and I was ashamed. But one of the main reasons I didn’t want to tell her was because I didn’t want to worry her. We were in the final build up to getting married. There was so much to do and she had so much on her plate that she doesn’t need to find out that her future husband can’t handle things. Can’t get his act together. So you say nothing and hope you can pull it together. You can’t of course. You need to take the first step to getting help and until you do that things don’t get better. I started to wonder what would’ve happened if the hood started to billow later than it did. Abel was born in October 2018. Laura had high blood pressure throughout her pregnancy. She was being closely monitored on a weekly, sometimes daily basis. The risk of pre eclampsyia was a real one. If the hood had started to rise in 2018 instead of 2016 would I have been more likely to talk to her or less likely. Truthfully I think the answer is less. If depression came knocking in 2019 when Laura was a young mother and we were supposed to be enjoying the happiest time of our life would I have been more likely or less likely to talk to her about how I was feeling? Unfortunately less again. And of course the longer you try to tough it on your own, the harder it gets and in the end something has to give.
Like I said, I didn’t know Jerry Thompson, but from the outside he seemed to have so much going for him. A talented footballer with a young son and an endearing personality – His club Carrick Rangers had this to say about him:
‘Gerard, or Jerry as he was more affectionately known, joined the club earlier this season and became an instant hit with his teammates and our supporters.
He was a larger than life character who brought a fantastic energy and commitment to our club.
Although he was only with us for a short time, he will be fondly remembered by everyone associated with Carrick Rangers FC.’
Sometimes, it’s the people who look like they have it all who are most vulnerable. When you have so much, it seems churlish to complain. Even though, like me, you may not know who Jerry Thompson is, I want you to think about him tonight, and the friends and family he left behind. Possibly because he didn’t want to burden with something he thought he should’ve been able to handle