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Finding a Healing Note in Michael’s Absence

“The thing I always liked about Michael was that he took his image seriously, but he took his art more seriously. He never lost that focus. He got distracted, at the end, by real life, by things he couldn’t control. But he always had a handle on his art.”–Andrew Farriss

Michael was perhaps one of those people the public least expect to be depressed let alone take his life. Most people think of an artist in his position as having everything to live for. You would think that, having fathered a beautiful, healthy, little daughter, having the unconditional love and admiration of his family, and the financial freedom to live anywhere that he would be one of the happiest men alive.

He had achieved, indeed surpassed so many of his adolescent dreams and quite a few of his life goals. He had lived an extraordinary life. Michael had the freedom to read and study and take up hobbies, and the clout of fame and time on his side if he wished to take a fresh approach and immerse himself in a new career. How we wish he had seen those options. In fact he had been on a steady diet of anti-depressants for approximately two years and the general practitioner who was supplying them had not taken the time to insist Michael get professional therapy. Michael did not ask for a professional therapist until six weeks before he took his life.

But you don’t see anything rationally when you are first racked with anxiety; and then slammed with the onslaught of depression. Michael found himself enmeshed in a situation in which he could never win. Caught up in circumstances that were out of his control, yet as one of the principal players, he thought that he should be able to change the direction of the messy Geldof/Yates custody battles, and financial settlement wars.


With all that he had achieved personally and professionally, he just could not accept that sorting out Bob and Paula’s chaotic, relationship was beyond his capabilities.

Bob Geldof had convinced the court that he was destitute, no mean feat as shortly afterward he sold his television production company and walked away with several million pound. He also owns a percentage of the ‘Survivor’ reality shows so it was no doubt creative accounting. At first Michael tried administering a ‘Band-Aid’ to the situation by allowing Bob to reside in his London house on Smith Terrace, in Chelsea. This is of course a, pacifists’ attempt to right the problem – because with all the renovating, he had barely had a chance to live in this house and it was not easy for him to offer it to Bob.

Later, when the Geldof/Yates wars escalated to where it required major surgery with what Michael perceived as Geldof’s attempt to gain custody of Tiger Lily, he was in full blown depression and unable to think straight.

He lost interest in many things that he had previously enjoyed; had difficulty sleeping; was full of anger and had extreme, low, self-esteem. Where as in November 1996, he told me that he was handling it, and had the best lawyer who was a master at the negotiating table; by July 1997 he was living on Prozac, pushing on with the INXS tour and in denial. Running as fast as he could –away from his problems.

But we did not see this. What we saw, in July 1997, was some stress, a lot of anger toward Bob, and the British press, and a shaky relationship with his daughter’s mother. Certainly his appearance was a little shocking, but he was in mid-tour with an album which was not quite selling as it should, so he was understandably concerned. His manager who had been traveling with him did not seem worried, she was keeping him busy with meetings and interviews, and announcing how good everything was.

Most men do not show the typical signs of depression. Crying is thought of as ‘unmanly’ in most cultures. Very much so in Australia, the culture he most identified with. The general feeling is that with his success, came the ability to hand all his problems over to someone else to take care of, and this was just not the case –especially in this personal situation.

It is a sad fact that our immediate family was scattered over three continents –Michael the only one in Europe. He usually visited Australia or the U.S. for business or a quick vacation. It’s hard to get a fix on a loved one’s psyche when he is living like a nomad. Due to Michael’s business arrangements with Mr Diamond, he was required to keep on the move –it is sometimes called ‘creative financing’.

Most people do not live this way and you can see the day to day deterioration. I urge you to learn more about the causes, the symptoms and the possible treatment of depression. You may save someone’s life. It has been determined that approximately 15% of those suffering from depression commit suicide. That does not count those who make attempts. Young men are more likely to take their own life than are women. In the United States approximately 80% of those who succeed in taking their lives are male.

Depression is a very serious medical condition. We all have days when we are feeling ‘out of sorts’, but when it is prolonged and unshakable, it can be very dangerous. It is important to note that many men are not diagnosed right away because they generally do not talk about their sadness or fears. Instead they show anger, they may imbibe in too much alcohol or abuse drugs.

Become more observant and watch out for your friends and loved ones. If you suspect someone is in trouble, encourage him/her to see a professional. Make calls, become involved, it’s better to be a nuisance than to attend a funeral. I think it is our duty to educate ourselves on this subject and I urge you to look up causes, symptoms and possible treatment. Most of the sites on Depression are advertising a particular drug treatment, but Encarta has some excellent information.



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