By Jon Michail
James Hird, past football coach of Essendon, two-time premiership player and five time All Australian,
as reported in the media recently was hospitalised for an ‘intentional poisoning overdose’, but later transferred to a specialist mental health facility.
A year ago, speaking to a live audience at The Ethics Centre in Sydney, in an interview broadcast on ABC News24 and ABC NewsRadio, he admitted the tremendous guilt he felt for his role in Australia’s longest running and most publicised sports doping scandal. ‘I should have known more, I should’ve done more,’ he was reported as saying. ‘I feel extremely guilty for that and bad for that and I can only apologise.’
The scandal won’t go away. Although Australia’s anti doping authority, ASADA, has never prosecuted him for doping offences, James Hird has suffered a malicious on-going campaign against him, and continues to be the subject of cruel and speculative rumours. And now this.
People who have survived suicide attempts report wanting not so much to die as to stop living. MD Alex Lickerman believes that if some in-between state existed, some other alternative to death, many suicidal people might take it.
Suicidal thoughts are often a symptom of extreme stress, overwhelming painful emotions, a sense of despair and hopelessness, or some other situation that the person experiences as unbearable.
“Shame comes from inside us.”
Shame comes from inside us. There is no doubt that James Hird felt shame and guilt. It is an emotion, an internal feeling of disgrace. Stigma, on the other hand, comes from outside the person as a mark of disgrace, from the messages that society sends out. Those messages say that there is something fundamentally bad about people if they have certain conditions or qualities.
Hird received those messages in abundance. Stigma fed into his shame and made him too embarrassed, too frightened, and too ashamed to seek help. His mental thoughts were undoubtedly a symptom of his extreme stress, overwhelming painful emotions, and a feeling of despair and hopelessness.
“Many men who feel and act suicidal or commit suicide have been humiliated.”
Suicide is seen, particularly by men, as a viable exit from a situation they experience as unbearable mental pain. Many men who feel and act suicidal or commit suicide have been humiliated. Just three weeks before his suspected drug overdose, Hird was publicly berated by the wife of a prominent judge at a Christmas party.
Bruce Francis, former test cricketer and frequent Hird defender, said the attack left Hird devastated. ‘’She made startling accusations, all baseless. She had no idea what she was talking about.’ He believes that the attack contributed to Hird’s ‘current situation’.
Steven Amendola, Hird’s former lawyer, said Hird had been subjected to years of bullying by the AFL for years before he was rushed to hospital. They had ‘relentlessly trashed his reputation and misrepresented the facts and the context. They have to bear some responsibility for it.’
Sources close to Hird say he became isolated from his Essendon colleagues and friends since the scandal in 2013. Social isolation can exacerbate a person’s feelings of low self-worth, shame, loneliness and depression. It is known that when people are emotionally isolated, they keep their feelings completely to themselves, and are unable to receive emotional support from others. They feel as though they are ‘shut down’ or numb, and are reluctant or unwilling to communicate with others, except on a superficial level.
Perhaps this is what happened to Hird. If that is so, it is up to all of us to recognise that we can help family, friends and colleagues who might be in a similar situation. A person does not have to be famous to suffer from shame and stigma.
“Nothing, absolutely nothing is more important than life itself.”
Experience tells me this. Nothing, absolutely nothing is more important than life itself and no amount of shame should lead a person to the point of no return, unfortunately I also know that is not always the case or that simple.
My hope is that each of us can help a fellow individual to live a less isolated existence by authentically reaching out to them at their most urgent time of need and making a stand for why they matter.
What do you think? Please share.
Jon Michail is Group CEO of Image Group International, an award winning author and recognised as Australasia’s No 1 image coach. Image Group International supports executives, entrepreneurs and their organisations to become iconic and monetised leadership brands.