I was so sorry to hear about the suicide of Kenny Mckinley . It sounds like he was a great young man with a bright future. I don’t know what drove him to take his life, but I do know about depression.
I was a female Naval Officer stationed in fighter training squadron and was severely depressed. I thought of suicide frequently. I still functioned at a high level so no one would ever guess. I would regularly tell myself that there was no reason to want to take my life. I made good money, had lots of friends and had a good relationship with my co-workers. I am a Christian and knew that God loved me and wanted great things for me but no amount of logic or faith helped. There were nights when I really wanted to die. What kept me alive is that I knew that my death would devastate my parents. I was fortunate to never lose sight of that piece of reality. It never occurred to me to talk to anyone about my feelings. After all, an NFL locker Room has nothing on the testosterone level of the military. Admitting to depression is not a good career move. It was only when I was taking a counseling course that I realized how seriously messed up I was. I finally admitted how suicidal I was and was put on Prozac and given counseling. It is impossible for me to explain what a difference it made. The suicidal thoughts disappeared. It is not like my actual problems disappeared. It is just that I now had appropriate reactions to them. After a year I was able to go off Prozac and suicidal thoughts did not return.
Several years later, my first child died from a rare birth defect. The grief was unbelievable. However, I did not think about suicide. I know that I could never have survived that time if I had not received treatment before. My husband, who was an Air Force Officer, took it very hard and also developed depression. We talked about how he would benefit from getting treatment for depression, but he was afraid that it would kill any further chance of promotion. After he retired, he was diagnosed with cancer. He finally started an anti-depressant. It is funny, but he was happier those years even thought he suffered tremendously, then he was while still healthy. He lost his battle with cancer two years later. As difficult as the time was, I did not think about suicide.
I tell this story because I greatly regret the years that my husband and I wasted because we were too afraid of the consequences of admitting to depression. Depression is a disease. If your brain chemistry is off, it is off. I believe that the Prozac re-set my brain chemistry, so that even when it was hard to put one foot in front of the other due to grief, I still wasn’t suicidal. Do we tell diabetics that they should tough it out. No, we give them insulin. It just takes one fraction of one day of losing sight of reality for someone to take his/her life. If you have never experienced it, it is difficult to explain just how deep and dark the pit can be.
I am writing this because I believe that this is an important issue. I think that it is particularly difficult for men to reach out for help when they are depressed. I believe that no one in the Bronco’s organization had a clue that this was going to happen. If I had killed myself, everyone around me would have been equally surprised. Somehow, we have got to change, I mean really change, how depression is viewed and not just give it lip service. People listen to NFL players. I hope that someone steps up and starts a serious discussion about this issue. Additionally staffs should educate players about the symptoms of depression. It is so easy for us “normal folk” to think that these guys have it all. They have women, money and fame. But at the end of the day, they still have to live with themselves. Add to that how fragile their careers can be. One bad injury and it is all gone or so it might feel to that player. I keep thinking that his great young man should still be with us. Depression should not have the power to kill. The only way we can defeat it is if we drag it into the light. No one should be afraid to admit that he or she is having thoughts of suicide. We need to change our culture on this issue and the NFL can help.
Finally, my thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Kenny and to the whole Bronco family.