Hard topic to talk about - Suicide among athletes

Discussion in 'Racing and Competition' started by Tricia, Sep 13, 2017.

  1. scott43

    scott43 Out on the slopes Skier

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2015
    Posts:
    1,785
    Location:
    Toronto, Canada
    I was really shocked when Wade Belak passed away here in Toronto. He was such a fun guy, but it's the same story often. You just don't know a person sometimes...
     
  2. Pete in Idaho

    Pete in Idaho Getting off the lift Skier

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2015
    Posts:
    344
    Location:
    St. Maries - Northern Idaho
    Suicide is obviously nothing new and effects all people in our society. Skiers who we are akin with are even more sad to us because of a certain level of being connected.

    The most prevalent mistakes people make is not talking about suicide. Mentioning suicide to one in jeopardy was long a forbidden thing to do. That is a big mistake, talking about suicide to a person in peril is a very good thing to do. If you see or know a person having emotional trouble, talk to them. Your empathy can go a long way in identifying and maybe solving the problem.

    Watch out for modern day trends they are all too often drug companies seeking monetary profits. So called hyperactive kids have become a billion dollar business in the drug corporations of the world. Autism may be one of the next victims of drug companies.

    Intervene, be empathic, talk, support and remember if a person indicates he or she is helpless and hopeless, they need intervention and help-now not later.
     
    Snowfan, Tricia, AmyPJ and 1 other person like this.
  3. Nancy Hummel

    Nancy Hummel Getting on the lift Instructor

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2016
    Posts:
    141
    Location:
    Snowmass/Denver
    I watched a show a few years ago about Debbie Thomas, former Olympic skater and orthopedic surgeon. She is bankrupt and living in a trailer with an alcoholic husband. A woman with incredible intelligence and talent who fell apart. It is really sad. It has to be incredibly frustrating to have everyone think your life is great when it is not.

    I have had my own struggles during my life and am thankful for good friends and good therapists. I would bet that many people outside my circle of close people would have not guessed what was going on.

    I wish there was more education in high school or college about mental health and resources to deal with life.
     
  4. fatbob

    fatbob Out on the slopes Skier

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2015
    Posts:
    900
    Brain injury, having a void where previously all life's efforts have been, lacking the payoff/buzz of competition or endorphin high all seem credible factors to me.

    Those of us that live more mundane lives also face these things periodically but possibly get through because we have rebased our expectation levels over time e.g. we know that some days at work will be a pointless drudge. I think there is a reason why so many retired sportspeople continue to associate with the sport as coaches, media, marketing etc which goes beyond their insight and skills - because it continues to give them validation and recognition. And its not a bad thing from a mental health perspective - a far easier tranistion than going to 42nd best salesman in the region or whateveri.e. just another joe
     
    AmyPJ likes this.
  5. crgildart

    crgildart Gravity Slave Skier

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2015
    Posts:
    3,799
    Location:
    The Bull City
    The more in need of help an individual becomes, the more that evil committee in their head conspires to prevent them from seeking or getting that help.

    We all start with the same brain on a basic level. Some just grow up using different quadrants than typical people use. Blind people learn to rely more on the other senses to live and navigate a building for example. I coach kids sports and am an adult leader in scouting, parents rely on my confidence to be aware when a kid may need a little more patience than the others, and I get it because my favorite (only) nephew is diagnosed on the spectrum. He's now finishing high school and a master karate champion and fantastic orchestra player. Brain just gets caught in feedback loops more than other folks do. That's the main difference I notice in most.

    I've also been involved in counseling and sponsoring 12 step addiction programs for over 15 years now. I've experienced quite a bit of tragedy and loss of good people I know very well and was still surprised when they took their own life. I've also been to those dark places and know this is something there is no "cure" for. You never graduate from programs aimed at treating depression or addiction. It is a life long battle. Some are more predisposed than others to be hampered by these genetic obstacles, but I still want to believe there's a little of it in ALL of us so we are all subject to spiraling down or becoming too OCD or frustrated over things most usually don't have problems with.
     
    Snowfan and AmyPJ like this.
  6. Tricia

    Tricia The Velvet Hammer Admin Pugski Ski Tester

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2015
    Posts:
    6,136
    Location:
    Tahoe
    I think most people face some form of these struggles, perhaps on different levels.
    I, too, went through depression. I was in my late 30's. I remember waking up in the morning and fighting urges to pull the covers over my head and not face the day.
    Without posting the details, it was my older sister who recognized something going on with me, who said, "Here is a name of a good counselor. Call her before you go to a dark place that is really hard to come out from"
    I denied that I needed a counselor and went about my day to day, dreading every minute of it. A month or so after that conversation with my sister, I had a particularly hard day and found myself thinking things that scared me. I made the call.
    Thankfully, my sister had the foresight to urge me, and gave me the name and number of an amazing counselor who was a godsend.

    Thankfully the stigma of seeking help is not what it used to be, but it needs to be better.
    We need to be better at cerating an awareness of depression and talking to those we love when we see the signs.
     
    elemmac, ella_g, VickiK and 6 others like this.
  7. squill

    squill Putting on skis Skier

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2017
    Posts:
    54
    Location:
    Salt Lake City
    Slightly drifting here, but ten-years-ago I suffered a TBI (Depressed Skull Fracture) in an auto accident and I would say in many ways that I'm still recovering from that injury. Finding hope everyday is still a battle but over the years I've personally found that being open to those closest to me as well as a steady diet, routines and a lot of exercise has helped curb depression more than any prescription or therapy session. I'm not saying that's a recipe for everyone, but from my experience you can only find some of the answers by being true to yourself.
     
    elemmac, Tony S, Monique and 2 others like this.
  8. Muleski

    Muleski Making fresh tracks Industry Insider

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2015
    Posts:
    1,777
    Location:
    North of Boston
    Wow, is that video sad. It's a very real issue. Sometimes in the past you heard coaches talk about some athletes as being "loose cannons", and frankly if they performed, the coaches more or less chuckled about it. These days, I think the whole sport has better, but certainly not ideal, radar out there to watch out for those who may be depressed and at risk.

    High level winter sports stars can go form hero to "nobody knows your name" very quickly, and those who are being guided to have a purpose and a challenge when the competition ends should be in much better shape. Somebody like Ligety will be just fine. Though I am not a fan of hers in many ways, LV will be as well. Those a rung or two down? Some may be at risk, and I hope that those close to them reach out to them, and help them. Even if it's helping them to transition to life after competing.

    Two summers ago, we were with some family friends who had a child on the USST. A self described "professional athlete." Of course he was earning NOTHING, and his parents were paying at least $50K for him to be part of the USST that year. He got all of his equipment for free, but was not good enough to have a contract that paid him. However, to keep his game up, he had to believe that he was a star.

    For an athlete like that, it's very, very touchy to try to be realistic that it's both over, and never going to happen. It can be very depressing, as they have dedicated years to it, spent a fortune of money that was probably not well spent by family, and in their opinion, many times "they have nothing to show for it."

    The fact is that they will have learned so many life lessons, and in pretty much every respect be more mature and savvy than any of their age group peers. They have a TON to offer the world, and a ton of opportunity if they get some direction, some mentoring, and dig into it.

    But they can also sink like a stone. Very scary.

    TBI's and CTE is another, complimentary issue. And opiate addiction is right there as well.

    Very sad and scary stuff.
     
  9. raytseng

    raytseng Putting on skis Skier

    Joined:
    Mar 24, 2016
    Posts:
    103
    Location:
    SF Bay Area
    I also think there's too much hype on CTE, brain damage, chemical imabalnce unless you are specifically talking about football or a fighting sport.

    The problem with this simplistic approach is that you come to the conclusion that if you just avoided or prevented that physical abnormality then you solve the depression. Often meaning just take these drugs it'll fix what is wrong with you.
    I am not arguing those issues don't play a role. The issues probably are multi-factorial.
    But I do think in whole, the physical part is a much smaller issue compared to the psychological and mental issues. The later requires WORK to get though those issues and find meaning and happiness, and not a just take these pills and it will fix your brain.

    Plenty of non-athletes also are depressed and try to find meaning in life despite being in all accounts physically normal. Additionally plenty of athletes who aren't in contact sports are also depressed after their career.
    Finally, whole sections of humans with quantifiable poor physical and social situations are not depressed at all and are happy.
     
  10. Tricia

    Tricia The Velvet Hammer Admin Pugski Ski Tester

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2015
    Posts:
    6,136
    Location:
    Tahoe
    This is one of the reasons that I don't get riled up when I see LV antics on Instagram and/or Twitter. She is building a brand that is Lindsey Vonn, whether she's on the USST or not, she'll be Lindsey Vonn the brand for years to come.

    And, FWIW, for anyone who took the time to read her book, Strong is the New Beautiful, she's fought many of her own demons through the years of transformation as she comes back from injuries and continues to reinvent herself and her brand.
     
    VickiK, Snowfan, AmyPJ and 1 other person like this.
  11. quant

    quant Don't worry, just go down. Skier

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2015
    Posts:
    356
    Location:
    East Bay, N*, Heavenly, Kirkwood, & PCMR
    The Specturm has recently been redefined and is indeed very wide. More people are added to it due to better and more refined testing, e.g. ADOS, which is now the "Gold Standard" for assessments. Here, in and around Silicon Valley, a lot of the brightest people seemingly are somewhere there. Steve Jobs was autistic, wasn't he? Heck, Bill Gates can't even look people in the eye. Regardless, head injuries (CTE) is also something where research seems to be evolving, with medical experts finding more linkage to depression and suicide with football players and MME participants being prime examples. Other people are simply chemically imbalanced.Some day there will be personalized medicine to help everyone get the right therapies and medicines they need, but we are many years away since the emphasis for immune sequencing and all that leading-edge research is with oncology.
     
    Snowfan and Muleski like this.
  12. AmyPJ

    AmyPJ Let's go! Pugski Ski Tester

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2015
    Posts:
    2,225
    Location:
    Ogden, UT
    ^^^
    Shining the light on the issues is the first step into making the future brighter.
     
    elemmac, squill and Snowfan like this.
  13. raytseng

    raytseng Putting on skis Skier

    Joined:
    Mar 24, 2016
    Posts:
    103
    Location:
    SF Bay Area
    In the talk of the "spectrum", I'll bring up happiness potential is also another spectrum and not just a pre-determined thing.

    What if you find out you are absolutely 100% perfectly normal and have NONE of those physical or medical issues, traits or "causes" discussed. You are a middle class white male, with every opportunity in the world, yet still feel depressed. How do you deal with that bombshell that you SHOULD be happy, but you're not? (this is true suicidal depression). Thinking "if only X., I'd be happy" has low probability of being useful in dealing with life's ups and downs.

    Say you feel you are currently a 3/10 on the happiness scale. Perhaps your natural potential is at best 9. That means you have the natural ability to get that +6 and be 9/10 happy but it takes WORK. It doesn't make sense to say well I'm at a 3, I'll never be a 10 without magic pills, or because of reason x,y,z so that's it I'm stuck as a 3 until the magic pills are invented.

    Someone brought up people skills. Sure some people have people skills naturally, and can give a speech and be the life of the party naturally. But if you suck at people skills, do you just say oh I was born this way and that's it? You have the potential to learn and Improve these skills and maximize your place on that skills spectrum.. Maybe you won't be Tony Robbins, but you can still learn and improve yourself to the best of your abilities (sometimes with help). Even in this example, all great professional public speakers did not get there all just on natural ability. They put in work to hone their skill and also got help and training from others along the way.
    Happiness (or dealing with depression) is a skill that can be taught and trained as well to gain you at least some points on the scale.

    As far as magic pills, take for example Steroids and HGH, yes they work and are magic pills for muscles. But you can't just take a bunch of steroids, sit back and still drink beer, eat fast food and tomorrow you get muscles. All those steroid users still put in the hours in the gym to get the muscles. The Steroids just allow them to put in those gym hours and keep lifting. So work still is needed. (To circle back to the original point, you don't need the magic pills get in better shape, you can still go to the gym. Maybe you'll never be a champion bodybuilder naturally, but you'll still improve and get higher on your natural "spectrum" of potential.)

    I guess my point is, if I had a Billion dollars and tasked with how to invest it to reduce suicide. I would put the Majority of the money towards the talky-talky, outreach, therapy, training, life skills and other non medical type initiatives; and only a minority investment in the sciency/medical magic pill initiatives (even assuming perfect success in solving the specific physical abnormality, eg. if we spend $500m we will discover a CTE tau protein blocker).
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2017
  14. Pete in Idaho

    Pete in Idaho Getting off the lift Skier

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2015
    Posts:
    344
    Location:
    St. Maries - Northern Idaho
    Agree. Having almost 20 yrs of crisis negotiation and dealing with a large spectrum of EDP (emotionally disturbed people) it was and I am sure still a fact that dealing with an EDP should be a low key, non hype kind of two way discussion. The one constant in dealing with this type of crisis is that EDP on drugs was much more dangerous, violent and it was just much harder to reach these people. Some of the prescribed drugs and most certainly street drugs only hurt the entire situation.

    The most common EDP met in crisis was a depressed person. A common denominator was most often a person who was alone with no support at all.
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2017
  15. Monique

    Monique bounceswoosh Skier

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2015
    Posts:
    5,737
    Location:
    Colorado
    Any mental health diagnosis can only be done by a mental health professional personally interacting with an individual. We can speculate about this or that person's mental health and mental state, but it feels icky to me because it can be both harmful and inaccurate. And CTE can only be diagnosed after death.

    There was the day in my early 20s that I finally called my company EAP. I said, "It's not that I want to die - I just can't see any reason to live, aside from making sure my pets are taken care of." It took so long to finally say those words out loud to someone. It wasn't the first time I struggled, nor the last. Depression isn't something I went through. It's something that comes and goes. Lack of sunshine makes it worse. A lot worse. My current MHP (mental health provider) says a lot of people in Colorado self-medicate through the winter by skiing, or doing other winter sports that get them outside all day in the sun.

    Well, first, you erase the damn word "should" from your vocabulary. Terrible word.

    I have felt that way, too. I'm told that just because others have it worse, doesn't mean my feelings are invalid. Sometimes I even believe it.
     
    David Chaus and squill like this.
  16. CalG

    CalG Putting on skis Skier

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2017
    Posts:
    111
    I don't believe "athletes" have a corner on the market as to the subject at hand.

    Celebrity status does nothing to gather my attention to the importance of every life.
    A sour perspective, but why should the :best and brightest" get the attention for the pains endured by too many.
    Society has let us all down. Fame fortune and materialism.

    There are alternatives! BECOME a ski bum!
    (or the minimalist of choice)
     
  17. Tricia

    Tricia The Velvet Hammer Admin Pugski Ski Tester

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2015
    Posts:
    6,136
    Location:
    Tahoe
    You are correct about the diagnosis part, but our interactions with friends and family when they are showing signs of depression can mean the difference between getting help or not.
    For instance, I have a very good friend who's body language had changed. I can't say what was different about her, but there was something very different. I had a glass of wine with her one day and asked her how she was feeling. (simple as that)
    She said, "Oh, fine"
    I said, "You seem different, like something isn't quite right. If you need to talk confidentially or, well...anything. I'm here for you"
    Nothing more was said until a year later when she said that that conversation was the beginning of her seeking out some help because she had been "sad" for a while with no real reason. She thanked me for having the insight to ask.

    I didn't diagnose anything, but I would feel awful if I hadn't said anything, especially if she'd slipped into serious depression.
     
    elemmac, ella_g, David Chaus and 7 others like this.
  18. raytseng

    raytseng Putting on skis Skier

    Joined:
    Mar 24, 2016
    Posts:
    103
    Location:
    SF Bay Area
    completely agree monique. if you pick apart my post half my statements are from the perspective of the 3/10 person and corresponding mental distortions. But my point is assigning some physical or social cause is not the solution for many people.
    it would be like just making sure someone has proper boots and modern skis. buying a turn only works so far. if all the gear checks out, you still wont make it down moguls.

    Just like its beyond me to teach someone how to ski moguls, its beyond my expertise and ability to comment on how make the improvements other than knowing that techniques do exist but they all require work (and just like skiing sometimes professional help and coaching).
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2017
    Monique likes this.
  19. Jimdh

    Jimdh Booting up Skier

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2016
    Posts:
    21
    The conversation is good; on a site dedicated to fun it is appropriate to acknowledge that for some "fun" (as most would define the word) is not often in the mix. Approximately 1% of humans suffer from a form of schizophrenia (schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, etc). Add depression, bipolar, etc and the number suffering severe mental illness explodes. All are real diseases. Mental illness can take a talented adolescent and, in short order, change their life forever. It happens too often. As you consider this, one should remember that "There but for the grace of God go I."

    We acknowledge cancer, heart disease and lesser ailments without giving appropriate attention to mental illness. The cost to society of mental illness surpasses most other diseases, and yet people (even loved ones of those that suffer) don't openly discuss the issue because of perceived stigma. Thank you for addressing the issue.
     
    VickiK, Snowfan, AmyPJ and 3 others like this.
  20. Pete in Idaho

    Pete in Idaho Getting off the lift Skier

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2015
    Posts:
    344
    Location:
    St. Maries - Northern Idaho
    If family and friends, coworkers etc. stand bye, say nothing and do nothing until the person in crisis see's a socalled expert then chances are they are already dead.

    Besides the craziest people I have ever known were psychologists or child psychologists.
     

Share This Page

We respect your privacy. your information is safe and will never be shared