Depression and Suicide – NFL Pro Junior Seau

Depression and Suicide – a Tragedy

by Dana Terrell, LCSW, EAC                       May 3, 2012 dana.calm

Depression and suicide have brough many to shared mourning and loss.

Our whole community in San Diego County grieves. We just lost to suicide a wonderful man, a football player elected to the Chargers Hall of Fame, and a generous, concerned community philanthropist.

We are in shock. This private man apparently made one previous suicide attempt which took his car over a 30 foot cliff.  He survived and said he’d fallen asleep at the wheel.  However, he’d just been charged with domestic violence. Our community responded with denial.  San Diego wanted to believe him.  We ignored the red flags.

Depression can become a Stealthy Killer called “Suicide”

It’s now clear to this professional: Junior Seau was depressed before he attempted suicide twice.


In my work as an EMDR therapist (see this website for more info), my clients often tell me that others would not dream how depressed, or anxious (or anything else they find hard to share) they are.  I encourage them to share it not just with me, but with trusted friends and loved ones.  This gives them a chance to receive more support.

Depressed People can Put on a Show

Junior had all the things we associate with a happy life. On Monday he joked with police officers.  On Tuesday morning he killed himself.

Loss can be the Stress that leads to Depression

Junior had wealth, respect, love.  He set the record for the most ProBowl games played (12).  Yet, he lost his career as he grew older.  It was a major loss.  He may have had chronic pain from his injuries (he never saw the team doctor, only his own personal doc).  It is likely he experienced brain injuries from football collisions and hits. All that can have profound implications for anger problems, depression and other consequences. As his problems multiplied, he may have felt like he lost himself. All of these things are treatable. Some can be resolved, and some can be improved.

But we are left with many questions and few answers.

What we do know, due to recent research discussed on this website about depression, is this:  depression and suicide is much more related to stressful experiences than we ever understood.  Bipolar is the exception.  That is clearly highly related to brain chemistry.  But bipolar disorder also needs stressful events to trigger it into activation.

People with more kinds of stressful experiences in childhood have a far higher depression and suicide rate.  According to the Kaiser ACES Study of “adverse childhood experiences,” those who have experienced 6 kinds of childhood stress have a 4600% greater chance of suicide.  See our article on the Kaiser Aces Study.

People Who Suffer Depression and Suicide Thoughts, or Stressful and Disturbing Events Respond Amazingly Well to EMDR Therapy

“Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing,” or EMDR Therapy  may sound wierd because it is a psychotherapy approach that uses eye movement as part of an 8 Phase Protocol proven to promote healing.  This comprehensive therapy approach helps with stresses large and small. And, it does so faster and more comprehensively than other therapies, per over 25 years (updated 2014) of quality comparison research.

Sometimes we ignore the small things. Or we think we got past the big things by forgetting about them.  This just makes us vulnerable when more stresses pile up in our lives.  Facing these events takes courage — and kindness to oneself.

If Junior Seau’s death can do some good, we hope it will give “wake-up” calls to those who suffer and those who love them.  It is no longer cool to deny and ignore stresses and distress.  Everyone has strengths AND weaknesses.  Even bulky, macho, super-successful NFL football stars have stress.

Don’t ask “What’s wrong with me?”  Ask, “What happened to me?”

So many in our culture don’t want to admit weakness or difficulty. But the key is not that something is wrong with us, but that something, or many things happened to us that for the present have overwhelmed our ability to cope.  When we are overwhelmed, we feel weak.  We are vulnerable.  We need help.

I wish for Junior’s sake, and that of his mother and ex-wife, children, girl friend, and all family and dear friends far and near, that he had been willing to face the what had happened with more openness.  He could have received much more support. Someone may have known about EMDR therapy and referred him for it.

NOTE:  I’m an EMDR Therapist, so you could easily consider me biased (I am!). But the World Health Organization respects the research on EMDR Therapy so much that they recommend only two kinds of treatment for the worst kinds of stress the produce PTSD.  WHO recommends EMDR Therapy and CBT Therapy.  EMDR is faster than CBT, requires less homework, and results in more Post-traumatic Growth.  That is why I focus on EMDR Therapy on this website.

He could have transformed depression and suicide plans into new forms of talent, strength and mutual supportiveness.  I witness my EMDR Therapy clients do this on a daily basis. It is profoundly inspiring.

How You Can Talk to a Loved One or Friend Who is Hiding Hurt

Let us now give permission to us all to face our stressors, weaknesses, demons, and ghosts in the closet. Let us pay attention to red flags, and ask the awkward question: 

“Did a part of you want to hurt yourself when you went off that cliff?  Was a part of you actually awake?”

If we get even a hint of a “…..maybe….” let us then ask the next question.

“Can I take you with me to a therapist to look into how EMDR Therapy could help you?  This therapy doesn’t require a lot of talk.  Combat veterans and teens love it for that reason. EMDR Therapy can give you a lot of good shifts in your brain to help negative memories, thoughts and feelings dissolve.  And then the really cool thing happens:  Positive memories, feelings and thoughts emerge to take their place.”

“Bottom line is:  I love you man, and I want to be your

  • friend
  • husband/wife
  • daughter/son
  • father/mother
  • buddy

for a long time.

Loss, Set-backs, divorce, a car accident, an injury, neglect or abuse in childhood, the death of a loved one:  all could be the accumulating Stressors that leads to Depression and Suicide. 

©2012 Dana Terrell, LCSW, EAC

©2014 updated by Dana Terrell, LCSW, EAC