Depression in life and sport

For someone who had been diagnosed of having post traumatic stress disorder and depression over the past 4 years after experiencing the darkest moment in life since childhood, any news I have heard about with relations to deaths by athletes and/or in life have literally put me on alert in a daily basis.  This was especially true after what I had gone through a year ago, the thought of suicide was mounting up on me before accepting Jesus as my savior.  However, Satan always finds another victim … and he often does.  This time, his target was Gary Speed, coach of Wales national soccer team who had played for Sheffield United, Bolton Wanderers, Leeds United, and the aforementioned national side.  When I wrote that piece a few weeks back, I was astonished to hear not only his age when he died, the fact that his name was even mentioned in the wire.  With that in mind, I decide to look back on the recent deaths oon athletes, and try to find a common link among them – while staving off any thoughts of suicide myself.  So deep breathe, and here we go.

The most glaring death among athletes in one particular sport & entertainment over the last 4 years would have to be one professional wrestler named Chris Benoit, who had essentially worked his way toward stardom throughout the 1990s and early 2000s with New Japan Pro Wrestling, World Championship Wrestling, and World Wrestling Entertainment, committed one of the worst crimes against humanity by committing double murder-suicide against his own family which included his 7-year old son Daniel, and Daniel’s mother and Benoit’s wife Nancy Benoit, whom once managed him during his rise to stardom while in WCW during the Monday Night Wars era in the late 1990s.  To this day, their deaths have literally struck a nerve with not only WWE fans, but also the entire wrestling industry with steroids and concussion/brain trauma issues.  I have been following professional wrestling on-and-off for the past 22 years, with mostly watching the matches on television, whether it’s in highlight shows or televised shows.  While I acknowledge that there have been so much violence in most of those matches, the fundamental storytelling in heroes fight against villains have not really changed too much.  However, the missing piece of the Monday Night Wars known as Extreme Championship Wrestling turned what was supposed to be just the simple act of blading during grudge matches, into something that resembled actual street fighting.

By the time that WCW was bought by WWE in March 2001, the prevalent knowledge of wrestling was to do with excessive unprotected head shots with usages of foreign objects such as ladders, chairs, tables, stages, razor wires, baseball bats and sledgehammers.  While those styles of matches created huge excitement for the hardcore fans, the casual ones, in all seriousness, have been cringing with their teeth and praying for their safety.  Still, most of us thought that they have done all they could to prevent deaths in the ring while performing, that is accidents asides such as the one that killed Owen Hart, the youngest member of the legendary professional wrestling family in Canada – The Harts family, at Kansas City, Missouri, in May 1999, and a few others in between around the world.

On June 25, 2007, during which around the time I was recovering from PTSD, I turned on my television and watched in horror as I heard of the deaths of the Benoit family, unbeknownst to the magnitude of that tragedy.  Within 24 hours of that news, they found out that Chris Benoit had not only murdered his family, but also committed suicide soon after.  Without going further into the gruesomeness of that crime, you could well imagine the types of details that soon came about afterwards.  Months later, after an autopsy on Benoit’s brain by the now-famous Sports Legacy Institute, headed by a former colleague and wrestler named Chris Nowinski, who later convinced NFL and other sports to prevent head traumas, discovered that the brain tissue of Benoit was consistent with someone in the 80s, and the disease is called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).  In addition, Benoit’s name is considered as “persona non-grata” within WWE to this day since the heinousness of the crime (I will discuss more about Chris Benoit in another article) .

If that doesn’t get anyone depressing, about 2 years after Benoit’s death and crime, Robert Enke, who was playing for German Bundesliga team Hannover 96 as their goalkeeper, committed suicide in November 2009.  Considered as one of the best goalkeepers in German football at that time to replace the legendary Oliver Kahn, he couldn’t get into a game with Barcelona FC prior to joining Hannover, and sunk into depression soon after.  At that period of time, football (soccer) community behaved much like the National Football League and National Hockey League, there was little or no emotional support for players with depression.  Consequently, daily news of former players committing crimes and other out-of-character behaviors often overshadow their othewise stellar or decent careers.  With Enke, he wasn’t able to handle whatever he felt and committed suicide soon after.  Immediate after his death hit the wire, the football communities began making efforts to provide supports for them.

Unfortunately, one year after Robert Enke’s death, another footballer took his own life, and though this player was not as famous as Enke, the one who directly responsible for his death is related to someone who definitely is.  The player who died was Dale Roberts, a goalkeeper who was playing for Rushden & Diamond Football Club, and the reason for his suicide was to do with the uncovering of an affair committed by Roberts’s girlfriend Lindsey Cowan with Paul Terry, the brother of English national football team & Chelsea FC captain John Terry.  When Roberts was told of that affair before the end of 2009-10 football season of the Football Conference, he broke off with Cowan at one point before reengaging with her later that year while struggling to come to term after his football-related injury that could threaten his career and the affair before his death on December 14,2010 – around the same time I was strugging with my own depression.

Without going further on details, my struggle with depression began when my trust was misplaced with someone who I thought was trustworthy, and took me down financially.  To be perfectly honest, after I realized my finances at the time was in the ruins, I had briefly considered suicide but never could stomach that thought, and eventually abandoned that idea when I accepted Jesus as my savior.  However, many like Roberts, Enke, and Benoit, they took the “easy” route to escape their pain (by submitting to Satan’s final command), none seems to have ever considered the emotional trauma that their families have to endure for days, months, and years since their deaths, which is the true tragedy of such issue.

As for the best way to deal with someone who is diagnosed with or noticing someone who might have depression, first and fore most, get that individual into talking to friends and family, whether it’s via phone calls or grouping in a church or a community center; second, keep that person involving more activities to divert from hazardous thoughts; third, find a psychiatrist who can confine to one’s vile thoughts, worries and fears.  If all else fails, call 9-1-1 if major issues erupt.

Stay tuned for more articles with regards to Chris Benoit, concussion issues, and the disease that has become a vocal point in the last few years related to both of the future topics, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

For now, Until then ….

Post script, with regards to the death of Gary Speed, an inquiry was conducted and concluded that his suicidal death may have been accidental, which made the whole issue even more tragic as it originated as an argument between Speed and his wife, and the fact that this issue could well have been prevented made the issue worse.

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