Junior Seau’s suicide last week has fortunately opened eyes about player safety and the psychological and emotional perils of the transition from professional football (and sports in general) to civilian life. There’s talk of mandatory counseling for retiring players and elevated regulation and enforcement of player safety standards. Hopefully, the Seau family will not change their mind on donating Seau’s brain to medical study.
But more important than any of that, I think the video of Junior Seau’s mother, Luisa, weeping in the immediate aftermath should be shown to every teenage and preteen and at-risk child in America to illustrate the impact suicide has on the victim’s loved ones.
It is one of the most heart-breaking videos I have seen. It’s actually uncomfortable to watch. She begins with a prepared statement that she staggers through surprisingly well given the circumstances; but she is unable to walk away once she’s done. As she thanks the fans and media gathered outside of Junior’s home for the love and support they showed to her son, the emotion boils over and her pain flies free. She rambles and wails and pleads to God for answers that in this life may never come. Why didn’t he tell her he was hurting? Why didn’t he tell her what he was planning to do? She begs God to let her son live and take her instead; she doesn’t just mean it, she clearly wishes it with every fiber of her being. Then laments, immediately realizing–in real time–that it’s too late.
It makes me think about these teenagers who take their own lives because of bullying and shaming because they are gay or “promiscuous” or different in any way. I think about those kids who are depressed or feel alone in the world. And I can’t help but wonder if, perhaps, they don’t realize that someone loves them this much…or that someone could.
I think children, especially those inclined toward suicidal thoughts and tendencies, should see the devastation suicide leaves in its wake. I think they should see the family members, community leaders, friends, and fellow players all wishing that Seau would have come to them. The fact is the part of the brain that can anticipate consequences is still developing in teenagers–sometimes it’s no great shakes in fully grown adults. People need to see those consequences firsthand. At the very least, anyone who would willingly put another person through so much pain would have to be a sadist–I doubt that such is the case in the overwhelming majority of suicides.
Taking one’s own life is so often an act of despair; it’s a last resort. It’s selfish. And it forces the victim’s loved ones to live on with the pain and the sorrow and the guilt of something they may have never known existed until it was too late.
I feel it is incumbent upon us–societally–to ensure that anyone who might possibly consider taking his or her own life–without at least talking to someone about it first–knows firsthand what it costs the people who love them. If it prevents even one suicide, it’s worth it.