When someone commits suicide, whether they are well-known or not, there are a few phrases that I hear repeated by many people: "How selfish!" and "They took the easy way out" being two of the most common.
Personally, I have never seen suicide as a selfish act, but it is something that I have never understood. It makes me uncomfortable. This confusion was heightened in November 2011 when Gary Speed, the manager of the Welsh national football team, took his own life.
His death had echoes of Robert Enke's. In 2009, Enke was 32. He was a goalkeeper in glorious form, having played for top European clubs like Benfica, Barcelona and Hannover 96. He seemed to have it all; a happy family life, good friends and the very real possibility that he was going to represent Germany as their first choice 'keeper in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Unfortunately, this wasn't to be. In November 2009, Robert Enke stepped out in front of a high speed train and was killed instantly.
A Life Too Short is written by Ronald Reng, a sports journalist and personal friend of Robert Enke. Enke often talked to Reng about the two of them writing Enke's life story one day; Reng was left to write it on his own.
Reng's language is beautiful (credit must be given to translator, Shaun Whiteside). In his book, he presents Robert Enke's life with frank honesty and shows Robert to be a genuinely nice, shy and loving young man. His love for his wife Teresa is shown strongly and we as readers follow Robert's life, both personally and professionally.
We see Robert's stints of crippling clinical depression. This is not nice to read. Robert found it difficult to get out of bed, to make decisions, to play football. He constantly felt that he was letting people down, even when he was doing well.
In his depressive states, it is genuinely heart-breaking to read. To read about such a loving, kind man struggling to function is horrifying. Yet Robert decided he would hide his illness to the world. He felt that he could not be allowed to continue being a professional footballer and role-model if people knew of his "weakness". This idea that mental health issues should be ignored is all too common.
This book should be read by as many people as possible. It helps to allow readers to understand about an illness that is massively misunderstood and looked at unfairly. It is a sports biography but can be enjoyed by people who don't enjoy football. It is a book about human nature, and can bring a new view about depression to everyone. It would be fitting if Robert Enke's tragic passing could have a positive effect on other sufferers.