Blog posts with a category of Mental Illness.
By David Harris, MD and New Oakland Medical Director
Don’t be disillusioned: It’s tough out there. And that goes for everybody, even those who seem to have it all. I go back to the opening page of M. Scott Peck’s self-help classic, The Road Less Traveled:
“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.” M. Scott Peck
Unfortunately, for those with untreated depression, the road becomes much bumpier and dangerous.
I bring this up to applaud two brave teenagers from Community High School in Ann Arbor, Madeline Halpert and Eva Rosenfeld. Both young ladies are aspiring
journalists and suffer from depression, and after one saw a bottle of Prozac in the other one’s purse at journalism conference, they openly discussed their feelings and use of antidepressants. But when they interviewed fellow students and wanted to bring their discovery into the open, they ran into a roadblock. The two then wrote about it in a op ed article in the New York Times.
“As editors at our high school newspaper we decided to fight against the stigma and proposed devoting a whole edition to personal stories from our peers who were suffering from mental illness. We wanted honesty with no anonymity.
We knew that discussing mental health in this way would be edgy, even for our progressive community in Michigan. We interviewed teenagers from around our school district who shared stories of depression, eating disorders, homelessness, prescription abuse, insomnia and anxiety. All agreed to attach their full name — no anonymity or pseudonyms.
But we were shocked when the school administration would not allow us to publish the articles.” Continue reading
Early in my career as a sportscaster, I was standing on the sidelines during a Lions game and was blown away by what I saw. At 20 feet from the action rather than 200 or so, the speed of the game and the loud, shockingly violent collisions revealed a very different world than the one I’d seen from the stands and the press box. As the players arose from each battering, I couldn’t imagine surviving even one play without being broken in half.
Fast forward to the immediate aftermath of the last Super Bowl when the Seahawks Richard Sherman went off on his infamous “Don’t you open your mouth about the best or I’m gonna shut it for you real quick” rant on the 49ers Michael Crabtree.
Sherman was immediately labeled a “thug.” The truth, as the Stanford graduate later explained, was that in order to play this incredibly violent game, he has to become his alter ego, a swaggering, fearless assassin.
That’s what NFL defensive back Jack Tatum and collegiate Hall of Fame player called himself. Tatum’s hit on receiver Darryl Stingley paralyzed him, and he later wrote an autobiography titled, “They Call Me Assassin.”
Do NFL players, especially defensive players who perpetrate much of the violence, have to take on a mentally ill attitude in order to effectively play the game? And if so, can they effectively put it aside after the game?
In Sherman’s case, he was still in the moment when he came off as a boor, rather than the otherwise composed, well-read, high school valedictorian that he is.
Recent troubles with 49ers All-Pro defensive end Aldon Smith brings this to the surface again. In the past few years Smith has been arrested and charged with DUI, marijuana possession and three counts of felony gun possession. Last week, he was arrested at LAX and accused of making a bomb threat.
A preseason evaluation had Smith “red-flagged” for an elevated potential for off-field trouble, indicating a possible mental health problem. Each player undergoes a full-body physical before the start and after each season, begging the question, why doesn’t the NFL at least do a mental health exam on its players once a year?
They should, but they don’t.
In December 2012, the Chiefs Jovan Belcher shot his girlfriend to death before driving to the team’s practice facility and killing himself in front of team personnel. His mother later filed a wrongful death suit, claiming the team hadn’t done enough to monitor her son’s mental health.
Junior Seau, a 12-time Pro Bowler and beloved figure in the sport, was diagnosed with CTE — a progressive degenerative disease of the brain — after he fatally shot himself in May 2013. In the past year, the NFL paid a $765 million settlement with the players’ union for hundreds of cases of CTE and the shortened, ruined lives left in its wake. And there will be more. Hall of Fame runner Tony Dorsett, 60 now, was just diagnosed with CTE this year. Continue reading
Steven Bowditch, a 22 year old Australian golfer, could take no more. On an April morning in 2006, following a harrowing 12 straight nights without sleep, he put on his heaviest clothes, jumped in his pool and tried to drown himself. His girlfriend at the time pulled him out and resuscitated him to save his life.
Bowditch’s battle with clinical depression had become too much to bear. His symptoms were physical at first: Disabling headaches, sudden nosebleeds, severe insomnia. Doctors feared he had a brain tumor before diagnosing depression.
But the diagnosis didn’t solve anything. He drank to self-medicate and felt overwhelmingly helpless. He even disliked being a golfer. In a 2009 Golf Digest story by Jim Moriarty, he told of walking down a fairway and envying the guy on his patio barbequing a steak. It’s supposed to be the other way around. The guy on his patio should be dreaming of a life hitting golf balls for a living.
Now, at 30, 13 years after turning pro and ranked just 339th in the world rankings, he earned $1.2 million in winning last weekend’s Texas Open on the PGA golf tour.
Therapy and medication saved Steven’s life. He is now a spokesman for “beyondblue,” an Australian anti-depression initiative that raises awareness of anxiety and depression. After his victory on March 30th, beyondblue Chairman Jeff Kennett said, “Steven is yet another example to anyone who experiences depressive or anxiety conditions, that by seeking professional help and staying focused you cannot only overcome your own struggles, but can rightly be called a champion.”
After winning, Bowditch was asked about beating depression to make it to the winner’s circle on the PGA Tour. His answer explained it perfectly: “I didn’t overcome it,” he said. “You deal with it on a day-to-day basis.”