Posted by: tootingtrumpet | October 4, 2010

Thoughts on Andre Nel

Suicide can be terribly abstract, always there, seductive in its Chattertonesque melancholia, an option that solves all the problems all at once and right now. The moment when it moves from the realm of adolescent daydream to the banal process of planning how, when and where, suicide becomes terribly real, its effects rippling out across the lives of hundreds of family, friends and colleagues. Until you have been one of those over whom its ripples have flowed, it can be hard to appreciate the impact of a momentary terminal act: once you have been involved, it is hard not to appreciate it. I shan’t forget the call I took at my desk on a quiet May Saturday morning.

A week or so later, I stood in a crowded church (was it a church – I’m afraid I didn’t notice) and looked down on a casket within which was the body of a man I had known for fifteen years, with whom I had chatted on his last afternoon alive. I had a few emotions swirling around as eyes were wiped to left and right – sadness, regret, empathy, surprise – but drowning out everything was anger. Inside the casket was the man who left his partner without her man and his four-year-0ld (four years old FFS) son without a father, a man with much to offer – but more importantly, with so much to give to those that needed it. I couldn’t get past the anger to the sympathy and, as you can tell, I still can’t.

Andre Nel is good at anger. In surely the shortest completed professional match on record, Nel / Gunter was glaring and railing at the batsmen like it was The Oval 2005 England vs Australia Fifth Test and not The Oval 2010 Surrey vs Gloucestershire another bloody Twenty20.  He summoned the anger to transform Nel into Gunter and become the big, quickish wrecking ball of aggression that represented his country 117 times. Andre Nel needs that anger again, this time to direct against the man who came close to denying his unborn child a father, denying himself the future comradeship of fellow players and fans and denying his spirit the chance to rise again.

It won’t be easy, but I suspect little has come easy to Andre Nel.



  1. Having attempted suicide, all I can say is that you don’t think that it’s going to hurt people you leave behind, you think it’s the best thing for them. You think it will be best for everyone if you aren’t around.

    People call it selfish. When you are so far into the depths of despair, you aren’t thinking rationally. It’s an illness.

    There are still times when I feel that the world would be better off without me in it.

    I hope Andre gets help. I’m afraid that we’re still shit at helping people with mental illnesses

    • I can;t agree enough with this. As someone who’s watched others go though severe depression, and then been through it myself, I truely believe you canniot understand such things unless you’ve been there yourself.

      I’m lucky in that I never hit the depths of considering suicide, but I can entirely understand how people do, and understand how they can convince themselves that everyone is better off without them. I believed my best mates didn’t like me and were only putting up with me out of a sense of duty, and it’s not a massive step forward from there.

      • Perc – I agree that having been through depression gives an insight denied to those of us who have not been through it, but are our views of no account?

        I understand why people consider suicide, just as I understand why people like to drive at 100mph+. I just think suicide is an example of an action that harms others (innocents) and they are the kinds of actions which I get angry about (to a lesser of greater extent). There may be good, medical, reasons why people consider suicide, but it’s a selfish act explained, not a neutral act.

        • It’s not that I think that the views of others are of no account, possibly more that they’re slightly incomplete. It’s not quite a ‘Nam situation of “you wouldn’t know man, you weren’t there” but there is an aspect of that. It’s the difference between theoretical knowledge and experiencial knowledge (if such a concept exists), and whilst it’s not the case that the latter automatically trumps the former, it significantly alters one’s outlook.

          I agree entirely about suicide harming others, and would not deny your right to get angry about it. I think because I’ve been closer to seeing Nels’ side, and you’ve experienced the fall out on the other side, our thoughts naturally go to different parties on this one. It doesn’t mean we don’t have sympathy the other side, just that it’s nowhere near as raw for either of us. I suspect this stirs up bad memories for both of us, just on the other side of the coin.

          As for whether it’s selfish, I think that’s a perspective thing. If you judge it from the outside then I entirely agree, the damage that suicide does to others around the person is massive, and when viewed like that there is nothing good that can possibly come of it. the pain they ease from themselves is no-where near as much as the pain they cause others. However I still contend that if the individual is acting in what they genuinely believe to be the best interests of everyone, however misguided that belief may be, then ‘selfish’ is the wrong tag.

          • Perc – there is much for me to think about in so considered a post as yours and I shall do so. Perspective is crucial.

            As an aside, I fully support legalising assisted suicide.

            Thanks again for this contribution.

  2. But when ill, don’t people seek treatment? I’m sure people contemplating suicide do think that things would be better for others if they were gone, but I’m not sure they believe it – that nagging truth must play a part in the large number of failures / last minute changes of mind.

    Does an illness absolve oneself of all responsibility for one’s actions? It mitigates responsibility, but surely it doesn’t destroy it (except in a few extreme cases). If there’s a modicum of responsibility, there’s a corresponding modicum of selfishness, I feel.

    • Toots, the problem here is that the people involved often don’t realise that they’re ill. Once they realise that then you can start to think about treatment, but if you don’t think anything’s wrong with you then you’re not goign to seek help.

      The fact is that depression and various other mental issues are potentially teminal illnesses. Whilst some attempted suicides may well be a ‘cry for help’, a lot of them are a genuine attempt to resolve a perceived problem, and when you are doing what you think is best for everyone involved then I don’t think the ‘selfish’ tag applies.

      Having said that, without knowing what the full circumstances are around Nel it becomes very difficult to comment on it specifically.

  3. But if someone is in real pain, they probably just want it to stop. I mean mental or/and emotional pain.

    I’m not sure that the feelings of responsiblity for others would enter into it for everyone.

    • Lou – there are many instances of people in pain (physical and mental) which they would do anything to stop, but it does not lead to suicide. My point above is that there is a tipping point from thought to action and what happens at that moment.

      • Have you read Jarrod Kimber on cwb?

        At some point, you hope that Nel will be really pleased that he wasn’t successful.

    • “I’m not sure that the feelings of responsiblity for others would enter into it for everyone.”

      My point is that it should, as it should at all times for all big decisions.

      I have read Jarrod’s piece too which partly inspired me to gather thoughts and try a different tack, but keep it personal.

      • I agree about responsiblity, especially once someone has got out of the ego-mania of childhood and teenagehood. That’s why despair is seen as one of the greatest sins. Or at least it is in the Christian style of thinking.

        But some people don’t operate that way.

        • Some don’t, but I get angry with them, as I do with others who do not account for the feelings of others when choosing how to behave.

  4. I think it is better to consider suicide a self-centered, rather than selfish act. The difference is slight but significant. In the depths of depression emotional pain is so great and all-encompassing that everything else – loved ones, friends, self-worth and the very idea of a future without pain fades into the background.

    When one truly believes that others are better off without them and that there is no hope for improvement suicide becomes, in its way, a rational act. Much as the terminally ill in extreme pain sometimes choose this path rationally or as someone undergoing extreme torture before sure execution or a soldier terminally wounded and in great pain might. The difference with those who are suffering depression is that this rational choice is made with psychic pain and the flawed thinking that evaluates the situation incorrectly, the flawed thinking which is at the root of depression.

    As someone who has been crippled with depression myself (and been subject to suicidal impulses) and also had two friends take their own lives I like to think I have some understanding of both sides of the issue.

    I am still angry at my friends but I also understand that for them at that particular time the choices that appeared available to them had narrowed to that single, terminal act.

    However, even with my own experiences, when I am clear of the crushing melancholia I do find it hard to imagine how it could have seemed so bad at the time.

    Luckily these days I am free of it much more than not and when I do feel the presence of the black dog I am able to tell myself that it’s not real and that it won’t last, despite every fibre of my being telling me otherwise. I have only gained this insight through experience and I think that had circumstances been different, had an easy method presented itself to me during the worst of it or had I been slightly less analytical or my depression just a bit worse that I would have been the one to devestate my family and friends. I am grateful for that.

    So when I hear of someone else either taking their own life or attempting to I feel the tragedy keenly but I certainly do not judge them harshly.

  5. Thanks to Lou and Jonny T for articulating what I was trying to and for showing me that there are people in the world who empathise and understand.

    I don’t feel anything but gut wrenching sympathy towards people who feel suicidal – to feel so desperate that you can’t think about anything but embracing the warmth and peace of death is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

  6. There is no evidence that Nel was suffering depression – his act appears to be a reaction to news of extra-marital affairs. Are most suicides the culmination of weeks, months, years of depression? I don’t know. Even for those suicides who are suffering from depression, is it contradictory to describe suicide as both a rational decision and one made by a person incapable of seeing or assessing alternatives?

    I’m all for assisted suicide after discussion and consultation, properly planned and managed, precisely because the act does not hurt others (indeed its preparation is designed to avoid that prospect).

    Once again, I wish to thank those posting here for giving me and other readers much to think about in this difficult subject.

    Lizzy – I completely respect your point of view, though I differ with it on some key points. What do you think of the men (usually) who murder their children and then take their own lives (a small, but not insignificant number)? I feel anger and contempt for them and cannot summon even a modicum of empathy nor sympathy.

  7. I can feel both anger and sympathy but mostly just sadness that something like that can happen.

    I am judgemental in a number of ways but mostly only towards housewives and Tories.

    I’m the most liberal person I know and I’ve never understood how people use the term liberal as an insult (especially in America).

    I can empathise with people who think that death for either themselves or others is the best option. There are many days when I think death is something I would welcome with open arms.

  8. Thanks Lizzy – I hope those days become fewer and fewer and then disappear.

  9. Food for thought there. I suppose there are different reasons people decide to end it. I suspect in Andre Nel’s case he may well have a history of being on the edge, the Gunther stuff, despite being said in humour could indicate that Mr Nel does not believe his success is due to himself. In ascribing his talent to something other maybe he reveals an inner self-loathing. Perhaps he feels that he has wasted his talent through his self-destructive behaviour. Or maybe he’s just an overly dramatic narcissist who was just trying to attract the sympathy vote and get all attention focussed on him. I can never know.

    Men who kill their children have little sympathy from me. It appears they don’t have an adult’s boundaries and in their act are hitting out at others whom they believe have wronged them. This is most definitely a selfish act, it is murder combined with a way of avoiding the consequences. I can see the men who do this imagining themselves looking down on the chaos they have caused with a nasty smugness and this would also indicate their immaturity and inabilty to comprehend the nothingness that is craved by the suicidal in the throes of a depressive illness/existential crisis.

    However I think most people who do have depression and consider suicide to be working from different motives. When I say it’s a rational act I am not for one minute agreeing with their decision but pointing out that their mental illness is not in the act but the factors than led them to consider it. I don’t think it helps to focus on the suicide but rather on the reasons suicide is considered an option.

    I also don’t think that our expressing our anger helps as those who might be considering ending it will just add that one more failure to their list of reasons their world would be better off without them. Not to say the anger isn’t justified.

    It appears you are in a dark place at the moment, Lizzy. I truly hope you come out of it soon but without knowing the details all I can say is that it does get better. It does, we have to believe this. Despite the feelings that others are better off without us they are not and I think the anger most people display is an indication of this. I’m fairly confident you are not a serial killer or genocidal tyrant so I think I’m on safe ground saying that the world is a better place with you in it.

  10. I don’t think the world would be better or not without me. It wouldn’t be better or not without any of us. Life is futile, temporary and pointless. That’s not me in a dark place – it’s just fact.

    The most selfish thing I have ever done was to bring a child into this ridiculous world. The poor little man.

  11. I’ve been severely depressed and thought of killing myself but there are things I want to do, and achieve. The thing is dying is easier than suffering for years and recovering from depression is the hardest thing. I also think that you’re doing worse if you torture someone for years than killing someone.

    About Nel, I think he was quite different off-field and for someone to do something like this, he must have had his reasons. For people who haven’t been there, it’s quite hard to imagine how bad someone who committed suicide was feeling. Now, I’m probably out of depression – some work needed to be done still but as soon as I started getting better, I realised that people who have never been depressed, never feel like it. Some compare hours of sadness to severe depression, but it’s a lot different. In fact, the word depression shouldn’t be used so often. And I think, news, movies, fictional tv shows encouraging suicide – would anyone think of committing suicide had they not heard of it?

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