All I know about former NFL player Junior Seau is what I saw when he played and what others, who knew him, said about him.
Intense, ferocious, unrelenting, and passionate describe the All Pro player he was on the field.
Sensitive, compassionate, helpful, and understanding were the qualities that many saw when Junior was off the field.
Apparently Junior was the kind of person who was eager to help others, both on and off the field. However, when he took his life he demonstrated a very selfish side.
I use the word “selfish” to describe suicide because I have had to sit with those left devastated in the aftermath. The unanswered questions, the guilt, the wondering what they could/should have done, the anger, the resentment, the loss, the depression – all fall onto the shoulders of the survivors, driving them to their knees. It sometimes cripples them for the rest of their life.
Junior Seau appeared to be a superman, invincible and able to accomplish whatever he set his mind to.
But just like the character Superman, Junior had his kryptonite. His kryptonite was not an object that could be seen and simply avoided. His kryptonite was mental illness.
It is estimated that as high as thirty percent of the population in the United States has some form of mental illness. (http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/25766.php)
According to an article in the Washington Post, one-quarter of all Americans met the criteria for having a mental illness within the past year, and fully a quarter of those had a “serious” disorder that significantly disrupted their ability to function day to day, according to the largest and most detailed survey of the nation’s mental health, published yesterday. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/06/AR2005060601651.html)
Untreated, mental illness slowly kills a person’s desire to continue living. It sucks the life out of them. It chains them inside the four walls of their bedroom, creating a prison from which it feels there is no escape.
There has long been a stigma about getting “help” for mental illness. But that has seen a significant change in the past twenty years as people are being more open about the benefits they’ve received from counseling and medication.
The one segment of the population in which the stigma remains most persistent is among males, especially the “big, strong” type. It is perceived by them to be a weakness. They have managed every other challenge in their life without help, so to reach out and ask for help for “problems” runs contrary to their personal code.
How ironic that the first actor to play Superman took his own life, too.
Junior Seau could have performed his most important contribution to mankind if he’d sought help and been open about the importance of seeking assistance.
I’m not sitting in judgment on Junior or trying to make him out to be a bad person. I feel very sad at the loss of a life and especially sad for those who cared deeply about him.
This is written mainly for you men. If you are struggling with depression, anxiety, or any other life problem, ASK SOMEONE FOR HELP. I promise you that you are unaware of the number of people around you that are eager to point you in a direction to a caring, helping professional.
There’s no such thing as a superman. We’re all human. Even Junior Seau.