Monday, June 15, 2009

Vince Young

He’s a quarterback for the Tennessee Titans of the NFL. Last season, after losing his starting job, getting booed, and getting injured, he left his house without his phone but with a pistol, this after mentioning suicide several times over the course of the day. An APB was sent out and he was finally tracked down.

I haven’t heard much on the story since then but recently saw a short interview with Young on ESPN. In the interview, an excerpt of a longer version to air later this summer, Young says that he wasn’t considering suicide, that he just needed to clear his head and that he went to his uncle’s house.

You can’t know someone’s mind from watching a few minutes of tape but, how to phrase this, something seems wrong here. It’s just my gut but I don’t think he’s telling the truth. Young has every reason in the world to say that he had no thoughts of hurting himself, millions of dollars of reasons, in fact. As a star athlete for most of his life, he’s also existed in a world where toughness and exhibited strength are highly valued and mental illness is treated very differently from a torn ACL.

The topic of NFL players and suicide didn’t start with Young. Star receiver Terrell Owens attempted suicide in 2006 but he too claimed it was all a big misunderstanding. I hope someone in the NFL offices is taking mental health seriously although I doubt they are. After Owens denied that he attempted suicide, his publicist, demonstrating a real deft understanding of mental health, had this to say: “Terrell has 25 million reasons,” she said, “why he should be alive.” Or at least make people think he wants to be.

1 comment:

Kate said...

It's sad that athletes don't feel comfortable sharing that they have mental health problems. I have heard about the Houston Texans (NFL) working for parity in "regular"/mental health care, which is a huge part of treating mental illness. The vice chairman is open about his struggles with depression and I think it's a good step. I think that owners and coaches being supportive will help players to be more open and then eventually, the fans will accept them--and learn more themselves. Or, at least that's how I would like it to be.