The death of Rick Rypien has garnered a tremendous amount of media coverage. Although I have yet to see or hear that it was a suicide, that certainly has been the assumption. What we do know is that Rick suffered from depression. Issues that forced him to withdraw from hockey, for periods of time, to deal with whatever these issues were. What has become evident is that, by all outward appearances, Rick seemed to be in a good place. He was going to be playing for the new Winnipeg Jets. He had talked about the excitement of this opportunity. He had arranged a golf game with a friend. The future looked promising. By all reports Rick was moving on.
I received a call from a radio station this week asking for an interview regarding depression and suicide. Obviously this renewed interest comes on the heels of the Rick Rypien situation. They called me because of my previous interviews, regarding men and depression. One of the first questions that was asked was how the news of Rypien’s untimely demise had impacted me. My response was quick. Every second day a person dies by suicide in Manitoba. Many of these tragic deaths are never reported on. The sadness of friends, families, and communities are kept quiet. The questions that so many people have are left unsaid and unanswered. Not to downplay or diminish, in any way, the tragedy of Rick Rypien, may he rest in peace, but each and every suicide is a tragedy.
I have also been asked how I relate this situation to my own. And frankly, it scared me. Why? As many of you may be aware, just by reading some of my blogs, I have been on somewhat of an emotional roller coaster over the last while. Although life is good there are some things that fill me with profound sadness. Things that are difficult to identify but there none the less. Rick Rypien’s life was moving forward. One article stated that “he appeared to have defeated his demons and was refreshed, rejuvenated and ready to revive his career”. So my natural instinct was to wonder whether I was headed down the same road. A colleague and I discussed this scenario and it was reassuring to hear her state that we should never assume that depression inevitably leads to suicide. Suicide is a complex issue and cannot be distilled into a simple cause and effect argument. It is important to remember that depression is a very treatable mental illness and that should be our focus.
I suppose that when individuals are in the public spot light, admissions of depression, admissions of chemical addictions or death by suicide, will always garner public attention. Perhaps this is unavoidable and simply the nature of the beast. What is unfortunate is how we seem to forget about depression and the tragedy of suicide till it hits home through the reality of life. Whether that is because it is someone we know or because it hits the news because it has happened to someone who is in the public eye. Our society needs to gain a better understanding of depression. A better understanding of the resources available for people suffering with this mental illness. An understanding that there is hope. There is relief.
Let me finish by quoting Jack Layton, “love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair”. Make it a good one.