Sunday Salon - An open dialogue
A former member of the Vancouver Canucks passed away on Monday and it came as a complete shock to myself and most fans of the team, as well as fans of other teams. His name was Rick Rypien and his greatest claim to fame was this incident last October:
He was subsequently suspended for the incident and not long after serving his 6 game suspension (some were asking for an even longer suspension), he took an indefinite leave from the team in late November for some personal issues that were known only by the team and by certain members of the local members of the media. At the time of the leave, there were calls from fans for the team to disclose why he was leaving the team (including myself). He didn't return to the organization until sometime in March, where he went to play for the Canucks minor league affiliate in Winnipeg.
Over the summer, Rypien signed with the new Winnipeg NHL franchise and was from all reports looking forward to playing for the team in the coming season. His body was found by a family member and his death was ruled as being not suspicious. It was reveal the day after his death that he had been battling depression for the last decade.
When I heard the news of the death of Rypien, I was shocked; it came really out of nowhere, but what was surprising in regards to his death in the last few days was the fact that there seems to be this attitude among hockey scribes that his death was due to the fact that he was an enforcer and not the fact that depression that he suffered from was probably the primary cause was the depression that he had battled so hard to overcome, including the two leaves that he took to get professional help (he took an earlier leave to deal with his depression).
As somebody who has to battle anxiety and depression on constant basis, I understand what he had to battle through. The fear that the dark thoughts and feelings will return is a constant threat and the easy ability to say that things are okay when they aren't and lie. The hardest thing to do is to reach out and ask for help, whether it be through medication or some sort of counseling or a combination of the two. And clearly for people like Rick, it just becomes way too much and the only option to get out of the cycle is to just end it all. Everything is a chore and even getting out of bed is hard; you are feeling more than blue; you are feeling as though your life basically doesn't matter and that ending it all would be the best solution.
Depression is unique to each person and our triggers are unique to each of us and the situation just is how we deal with the anxiety and panic that seems to bring it on, but it can come on just as quickly with something is completely unrelated to what is causing the depression, anxiety or panic.
As I commented in an opinion piece earlier this week, "I hope that his death forces not only the professional sports community, but our society at large to talk about mental health issues and the stigma that they pose". I hope that the death of Rick Rypien will not be in vain and allow pro sports to realize that depression is a very real disease that needs to be fought just like concussions and other physical injuries and I also hope that his death allows for a conversation among the rest of us of how to deal with depression and other mental disorders that seem to still plague our society.