With the death of Junior Seau being considered a suicide I wanted to comment about this. I will leave the effect of tackling and possible TBI (traumatic Brain Injury) to experts but I can add to or create a better understanding of suicide.
There are currently multitudes of people including former Patriot teammates who are grieving and will feel sad, angry, and guilty. These individuals will be upset that Junior did not come to them with the issues that lead to this tragic decision. We all would want those close to us to confide in us and many of us would go to great lengths to help our friends and loved ones.
The military is currently going through a horrific rash of suicides and as a member of this profession; I have been briefed and been to many classes on suicide. Couple this with my Degree in Social Work and I am in a unique position to lend some information on the topic. The military and the NFL are similar in many regards; both are hyper masculine where weakness is hidden and suppressed. For Junior this is coupled with being a Samoan, a culture steeped in masculinity and the images of tough hard men. In both of these professions men are mislead to believe that they must endure emotional pain and heart ache alone and that seeking mental health is a sign of weakness. The military is trying desperately to combat this idea and instead build a culture where mental wellbeing is considered as important as physical health and training. There is a long way to go toward this and I feel sure the same is found in professional sports specifically the NFL.
I feel sure many of those who will read this are involved in youth sports and I encourage everyone to change this mindset. I liken it to getting a sprain or a break physically. You can suck up sprains and even minor breaks as seen by Gronkowski. You cannot however suck up a compound fracture of a leg or arm as these are serious injuries that cannot be played through. Mental health but be seen as the same and there is a dramatic difference between the normal “blues” associated with say losing the superbowl for fans and players and significant depression where an individual sees no future hope.
The main indicators of suicide are often a dramatic change in not only mood (might just be the blues) but rather a change in overall personality. If your bubbly Family member is suddenly the Grinch for a significant period something is probably seriously wrong. In some instances, your grumpy old man becoming a bubbly smiling person can also be an indicator that something might be off. The most important this is that you trust your gut or your instincts. If people make morose or dark humor about them dying this is a clear indicator that suicide is being at the least thought of if not outright considered while someone giving away important possessions is an urgent indicator.
Finally, if you have any gut feeling or have an inclination that someone you know and love might be in a rut that might lead to suicidal thoughts or intents, ask them. Junior likely would be alive if someone had asked him if he was thinking about hurting himself (this is not an indictment of anyone close to him and I do not know the specifics of his situation). You do not have to know the right things to say after you ask, just ask. If the loved one says they are thinking about it, talk to them and insist they seek immediate help and do not leave them from this point forward until they see professionals trained in these situations.
Suicide always bothers me and I feel deep compassion for the Seau Family. I hope that this subject becomes more openly talked about in our society as often those who take their own lives do not deeply want to do this, they are simply doing the only thing they can to end suffering that is often merely fleeting in nature. I hope none of us have to confront friends or loved ones about suicide but if you do, I hope this provides some modicum or confidence that you are doing the right and honorable thing asking the question.