"Real men do cry...and so do NFL quarterbacks." Explains Eric Hipple, one time legendary Detroit Lions quarterback and author of the book Real Men Do Cry, as he spoke to a filled room at the Lansing conference center for the most recent gathering of medical professionals for the Michigan Suicide Prevention conference.
Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley, through his opening remarks, set the stage on the importance of this conference.
Soon after, Mr. Hipple took the audience on a personal journey of his athletic career, both humorous as well as insightful, it allowed Eric to show his own personal faults and vulnerabilities as a man.
By the time this acclaimed quarterback had talked about his attempt to commit suicide by jumping out of a car traveling 70 miles per hour with his wife of 25 years, Shelly, at the wheel many years ago, the audience was attentive and emotionally invested into his story.
When Eric then explained that just a few years from that incident his 15-year old son would die from suicide and how hard it was for him to deal with this loss as a father, a man, a great football player.
Speaking and playing a touching song on this day with Eric was his daughter, 22-year old, Tarah. She was 7-years old and just in the other room when her brother went into his room and died shortly after. "He was everything to me. This loss eventually caught up with me and caused me to start hurting myself as a teenager."
Tara talked openly with the audience. By the time Eric and Tarah finished telling their story, you could tell everyone was feeling their pain. This is the real darkside of suicide - what's left behind in the aftermath.
Eric was not there to just tell his personal story.
He then explained what he has been doing for a number of years now as part of the University of Michigan's Depression Center and the Eisenhower Center in Ann Arbor, MI.
"I'm not a psychiatrist or a mental health clinician. I am an outreach coordinator.
He is now working with our military that are coming back from the battlefields. He places them in group sessions with star football athletes so they can discuss openly what they are dealing with as it relates to depression.
Eric, through an in-depth power point presentation, took the audience - some professionals, some everyday people - down a path of awareness; signs to look for and alternate ideas. By the end of the nearly two-hour presentation, there were many questions.
It was clear while our famous Detroit Lion may not have all the answers when it comes to suicide and depression. He is out doing the work as best he can.
We will be featuring Eric and Tarah talking personally about their lives in the film, Death is Not the Answer.
We all thank Eric and Tara for sharing their lives with us.