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.

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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