Sky News’ Sports Editor Nick Powell reports from Salford, where he was part of a panel debating the reporting of sport and mental health by the media.

It was a coincidence, but an apt one, that a panel gathered on the third anniversary of Gary Speed’s death.

As Sports Editor of Sky News and of Sky Sports Bulletins, I was also part of the media reporting of Speed’s tragic passing. Did I – did most of us – get it wrong?
Nick Powell Mind Media Awards

“For many, retirement comes knocking early, sometimes violently. An injury can end dreams and trigger severe mental health problems.”

Time for Change – an anti-stigma campaign run by the mental health charity Mind – invited Michael Bennett of the Professional Footballers’ Association, Sussex and former England cricketer Michael Yardy, Telegraph sports writer Jim White and me to examine how the media deal with mental health issues in sport.Media City Media Mental Health Session 2014

In the chair, the BBC’s Eleanor Oldroyd encouraged the audience to join the debate.

Yardy effectively ended his international career by flying home from the 2011 World Cup during the knockout stages to get help for depression.

He is still seeing a therapist but has not had a serious bout of depression for more than a year, and is studying psychology with the thought that he might work with sportspeople once he has retired.

Retirement. A grim word for all sports professionals, bar the well-paid elite. At some point in (usually) their 30s, they have to find something to fill the void in their lives and their bank balance.

For many, retirement comes knocking early, sometimes violently. An injury can end dreams and trigger severe mental health problems.

Time for Change is trying to remind journalists that behind every big name (and not so big name) is a human being. They should not make themselves part of the problem. Some humanity, some sensitivity is called for.

Marcus Trescothick, Yardy’s celebrated predecessor through the early exit door of an England cricket tour, wrote in his book ‘Coming Back to Me’ that one of his very early thoughts in his dark hours was about how he would deal with the media.

The panel discussed why cricketers seem to be especially vulnerable. Perhaps, we thought, because (especially) batsmen are uniquely exposed out in the middle, playing as individuals but on behalf of a team.

The Time for Change panel discussed whether the death of Gary Speed was dealt with correctly by media
A golfer challenging in the final round of a major is under immense pressure, but will not be letting down 10 teammates if the tournament is not won.

But no sportsman is immune. How could they be? The PFA website reminds players that “every year one person in 10 will experience depression or anxiety disorder”.

Which brings us back to Gary Speed. The coroner at his inquest recorded a narrative verdict, unable to be sure that the Wales manager actually intended to take his own life.

The Time for Change media guidelines talk about avoiding speculation about a person’s mental health being significant. Did those of us called upon to talk live on air when news broke of Speed’s death achieve that?

I doubt it.

In a similar situation in the future, would I be more circumspect?

I hope so.