Gini Dietrich

A Gigantic Hole In the Online World

By: Gini Dietrich | September 5, 2011 | 
80

I didn’t know Trey Pennington, like many of you knew him. Sure, I knew him online and we chatted on Twitter. I also ran into him a couple of times on the speaking circuit.

But I didn’t have the same experiences like Mark Schaefer and Olivier Blanchard. I can’t even say I’ve dealt with depression like Geoff Livingston and Bridget Pilloud.

But I watched Trey, from afar, as he suffered from an incredibly painful separation, severe burns from an accident his daughter had, an attempted suicide earlier this year, and his lashing out online, in (what we now know) a desperate cry for help.

It’s been said he couldn’t understand why he was so popular online, but his wife didn’t love him like we loved him. It’s an unfair comparison. We got 140 character bites of him or an hour while he spoke or we read his blog. We knew the Trey he wanted us to know.

And yesterday morning, he went to church and he stood outside with a gun in his hand. He argued with police, who insisted he put it down, until he pointed it at himself and took his own life with a single shot.

To say the online world is devastated is putting it mildly. I don’t know what to say to make it better.

All I know is that I wish I’d been able to recognize his lashing out, and then euphoria, as a cry for help. He’d post photos of himself in benign places. He was losing a lot of weight. He was commenting on people’s Facebook walls, asking if their kids knew how much they loved them. He was asking for help and we didn’t recognize it.

We think a man who is popular online and off, owns a business, is on the speaking circuit, and has six children and two grandchildren will figure it out; he’ll make his way through his pain and suffering.

Hindsight is 20/20.

To recognize a depression that severe likely has to come from personal or professional experience. And for someone to ask for help is akin to admitting they have a disease that is taboo in our society. I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know you should hug your friends and family even closer. Tell the people you love how much you love them. And be incredibly selfless when watching for signs of depression…you may save someone’s life.

You’ll be missed, Trey. You left a gigantic hole in the online world.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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80 Comments on "A Gigantic Hole In the Online World"

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geoffliving
geoffliving
4 years 10 months ago

It’s a terrible story, and I agree with your assessment. No one really knows what happened at home, but we will all be worse for this. So sad.

bdorman264
4 years 10 months ago

Tragic story indeed. My brother-in-law suffered from depression and took his life as well. In hindsight, you see all the signs but other than being there, what can you really do?

Yes, life is precious and take the time to tell the people who matter that you care and you do know they are there.

I just know, never be afraid to lend a helping hand; you never know what kind of impact it will have.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 10 months ago

@geoffliving It’s really awful. I thought your tribute to him was fantastic…and I learned a couple of things about you I didn’t already know.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 10 months ago

@bdorman264 I don’t know that there is much you can do, other than being there. Mark talks about, in his blog post, how he kept reaching out to let him know he was there. But it wasn’t enough.

NancyD68
4 years 10 months ago
I cried reading this Gini. I suffer from anxiety, which is of course, depression’s brother. I tried to commit suicide when I was 12 and went on to become a raging alcoholic for years. I finally kicked the bottle and drugs 14 years ago this week. My brother has two daughters. His younger daughter tried to commit suicide a few years ago. I told my brother she was on the wrong path. I did not realize how right I was. I thought she was getting high. That came a bit later. The sings are there.Sometimes you need to just talk… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 10 months ago

@NancyD68 The signs are there, but sometimes we’re too wrapped up in ourselves to say anything…or we don’t want our family mad at us for bringing it up. Good for you for telling your brother your niece was on the wrong path! It’s times like this we learn a little bit more about one another and I’m grateful for you.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 10 months ago

@NancyD68 The signs are there, but sometimes we’re too wrapped up in ourselves to say anything…or we don’t want our family mad at us for bringing it up. Good for you for telling your brother your niece was on the wrong path! It’s times like this we learn a little bit more about one another and I’m grateful for you.

AngelaDaffron
4 years 10 months ago

Beautifully written from the heart as always! I have a nephew going through this right now. Many attempts have been made and he has received a lot of professional help, but it is a constant struggle for him. Depression is a deep hole to climb out of and hopefully this tragedy will open some eyes to the importance of the cause!

Lori
4 years 10 months ago

That’s very sad Gini! The ones left behind by a suicide victim usually feel they could have done more and beat themselves up about it. It’s very sad.

Lori

Lori
4 years 10 months ago

That’s very sad Gini! The ones left behind by a suicide victim usually feel they could have done more and beat themselves up about it. It’s very sad.

Lori

ladylaff
ladylaff
4 years 10 months ago
This is SO sad and I thank you for writing about it in your usual generous spirit. I would like to know if anyone has any advice for what to do someone makes a cry for help online. Someone in my LinkedIn network made a cry for help once and I asked the Samaritans for advice by e-mail and I got a very strange reply as if (a) it came from an automated service and (b) didn’t believe that the advice was for a third party. I tried to help him but I didn’t know the person well, felt totally… Read more »
jennwhinnem
jennwhinnem
4 years 10 months ago

I didn’t know about any of this. Thank you for telling the story Gini. Saw him at #soslam, was struck by how kind he was, did not know about the rest of this. I feel like I just got punched in the chest.

wabbitoid
4 years 10 months ago
There are two sides to this story. Some people aren’t wired up quite like everyone else and need a bit more support to be who they are. The other side is a fast-paced world of self-promotion and “success” that is supposed to define how everyone fits in. It’s very easy to describe “Depression” as a medical condition, a disease of the brain that requires treatment to make a person more “normal”, but that is always the easy way out. Acceptance of those who see things differently for their talents and a strong sense of community that supports them is good… Read more »
lauraclick
lauraclick
4 years 10 months ago
I just happened to jump on Facebook last night before going to bed and learned of the news from your FB post, Gini. I was shocked. I had no idea what was going on in Trey’s life. I had the pleasure of meeting him and hearing him speak at #solam and found him to be warm, genuine and incredibly kind. Even though we didn’t know each other, he made me feel as if we’d been friends for a long time. You’re right – there is truly a gaping hole in the social media community. And, it just goes to show… Read more »
M_Koehler
M_Koehler
4 years 10 months ago

I’m really sorry to hear about this. Take Gini’s advise: love your friends and family, always and like there is no tomorrow.

swbuehler
swbuehler
4 years 10 months ago

My own thoughts: http://bit.ly/o0NmaU

swbuehler
swbuehler
4 years 10 months ago

My own thoughts: http://bit.ly/o0NmaU

EricaAllison
4 years 10 months ago
I’m very sad about this and taking your advice to heart: hugging the ones I love tighter today and letting my friends and family know how much I love them. You’re in that group, Gini! You’re one special lady who touches so many on a daily basis without even knowing the true depth of your impact. Thank you for that. I hope to one day meet you in person; I know we’d be fast friends! Virtual hug to you, my friend. xoxo I did meet Trey, like @lauraclick , at Social Slam and was struck immediately by his kindness and… Read more »
HowieSPM
HowieSPM
4 years 10 months ago

Pretty sad the first time I hear of Trey is for his Eulogy. Really nice and meaningful post here with all sorts of lessons. My condolences to everyone who knew Trey.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 10 months ago

@AngelaDaffron I really hope your nephew is getting the very best help.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 10 months ago

@Lori I feel just awful for his family. I know they’ll forever wonder what they can have done differently.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 10 months ago

@ladylaff I don’t know the answer to this. If it were me, I would have done the same thing as you, I think. When people reach out to us, the best we can do is be there, listen, and call a professional if we think the person might take their own life.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 10 months ago

@ladylaff I don’t know the answer to this. If it were me, I would have done the same thing as you, I think. When people reach out to us, the best we can do is be there, listen, and call a professional if we think the person might take their own life.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 10 months ago

@jennwhinnem It’s completely devastating, Jenn. I mean, he was just talking about how excited he was to be going to the U.K. this week. Just awful.

AngelaDaffron
4 years 10 months ago

@ginidietrich Thanks! He is, but it is still a struggle for him daily.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 10 months ago

@wabbitoid I think this is the biggest lesson of all, Erik. He was surrounded by shallow bonds. Hundreds of thousands of them. And no one could help him.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 10 months ago

@wabbitoid I think this is the biggest lesson of all, Erik. He was surrounded by shallow bonds. Hundreds of thousands of them. And no one could help him.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 10 months ago

@lauraclick I didn’t know what to say to you on FB about this, but saw your comment. It’s completely devastating.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 10 months ago

@lauraclick I didn’t know what to say to you on FB about this, but saw your comment. It’s completely devastating.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 10 months ago

@M_Koehler And have Skype wine dates.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 10 months ago

@M_Koehler And have Skype wine dates.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 10 months ago

@swbuehler Thanks for sharing.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 10 months ago

@swbuehler Thanks for sharing.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 10 months ago

@EricaAllison How is it we’ve never met in person?? I, too, feel like we’re close friends and love you tons!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 10 months ago

@EricaAllison How is it we’ve never met in person?? I, too, feel like we’re close friends and love you tons!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 10 months ago

@HowieSPM There are all sorts of lessons. Maybe when things aren’t so raw, we can talk about them.

Al Smith
4 years 10 months ago

@NancyD68 So proud of you, Nancy. 14 years is awesome. I have a similar history.

So glad you talked to your brother about his daughter. Sometimes it helps. Other times, it doesn’t matter who says what. I have no experience with depression myself, but have known a few people who took their life, because of it. Sad, so very sad. Thanks Gini for writing this.

FrankDickinson
FrankDickinson
4 years 10 months ago

Depression is an insidious sonofabitch.

Very raw.

Go to the angels Trey.

karlsprague
karlsprague
4 years 10 months ago
Gini, I’ve been reading SpinSucks because of your humor and incredible insights into social media and all things PR. I can now add to the list your ability to help us interpret life…and death. The human brain has an amazing capacity to depress, paralyze and rob our faculties and it is impossible for others, standing at a distance, to understand. I admire your desire / need to comment on Trey Pennington’s death – right down to your admission that “I don’t know what to say to make it better.” Keeping it real is what we expect from you. You’re the… Read more »
JoyFull_deb
JoyFull_deb
4 years 10 months ago
@FrankDickinson Amen, Frank. Depression is a bitch. I’ve been there…in that deep, dark hole. I’ve fought it off & on , for the last 30+ years..and oh yes, debilitating anxiety, enough so, that I don’t want to go anywhere. It takes a lot to ask for help…it takes courage. It also takes courage to kill yourself. I know because I’ve been working (volunteer) for 15+ years in suicide prevention & intervention field and for the last 4 years w/ loved ones left behind to grieve after suicide (post=vention). I could go on about this for hours, but won’t. Thanks, @ginidietrich… Read more »
M_Koehler
M_Koehler
4 years 10 months ago

@ginidietrich Exactly. Family and friends are the 2 most valuable things you can have in your life and you can never have enough.

PJProductivity
PJProductivity
4 years 10 months ago
Unfortunately, I’m not sure this is accurate in Trey’s case (though it certainly is for many others). He was VERY active in his city’s community life. The bonds surrounding him weren’t all shallow, not a bit — there are many who knew him truly, and well, and while they may not be as shocked as the rest of us, they *were* surprised and grief-stricken. The thing is, depression IS an insidious disease, and it won’t LET sufferers reach out quite often. It’s on loved ones to ask, to keep asking, and how can we when we don’t even *see* it?… Read more »
JoyFull_deb
JoyFull_deb
4 years 10 months ago

@PJProductivity Exactly !! Talking about it, is a start. We need to have conversations around depression & suicide. btw, this is National Suicide Prevention Awareness week.

ryancox
ryancox
4 years 10 months ago

I didn’t know Trey like many others did, even virtually, but the story is incredibly sad. What’s worse is that we all probably have some version of the same story with someone we are a lot closer to. I guess my point is that reality is a bitch that I wish would stop rearing her ugly face. I’ll remember Trey for the small things I personally had experience with, and all of the wonderful things others have shared.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 10 months ago

@JoyFull_deb @FrankDickinson thanks to both of you. It is very raw and it’s hard to know what to say. Deb, I do know this hits very close to home for you. I can only hope this kind tragedy brings us closer to understanding depression.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 10 months ago

@ryancox The one thing he would have told you is to hug those nephews of yours close and to tell them how much you love them.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 10 months ago

@karlsprague Thank you. We all manage tragedy differently. Mine is to write. Your comment made my day.

FrankDickinson
FrankDickinson
4 years 10 months ago

@ginidietrich@JoyFull_deb That’s the thing with depression Gini – at times, it is so unknowable – it hides itself, disguises itself as something else and then rears it’s ugly ass head.

I, by no means am I saying that it is uncontrollable. Like so many others, I have experienced it (I no longer say “suffered with it” because, for me, it gives it strength that I refuse to allow), for 30+ years. In most folks it can be controlled.

Naming it has helped for me.

I miss Trey already – and I HATE depression for it.

PJProductivity
PJProductivity
4 years 10 months ago

@JoyFull_deb That’s irony I could have done well without. Hopefully, it will encourage further conversation.

TMNinja
TMNinja
4 years 10 months ago

Sad news, indeed.

I did not know Trey well, but met him earlier this year when we were both speakers at the same conference. He seemed a true and genuine individual.

It is ironic that from the outside we often think everything is fine, when individuals are really looking for help.

My thoughts go out to his friends and family.

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