Seau, Suicide & Our Circle of Friends

Pat O’Brien, one of the co-hosts of Fox Sports Radio’s The Loose Cannons Show, asked a poignant question on the day former NFL linebacker Junior Seau committed suicide.

“Where was his inner circle?” O’Brien sighed as if he were alone, sitting on a park bench with nobody around to hear instead of the millions of people tuning in throughout the country.

O’Brien and his co-hosts talked about the warning signs, how Seau drove off a 30-foot embankment some 18-months earlier after a domestic dispute. They talked about how beloved Seau was, both on the field and off. And the more I listened the more their voices trailed off, my mind stuck on the question that didn’t seem to have an answer.

“Where was his inner circle?”

Come to think of it, where is mine? Where is yours? Who comprises the circle of trusted people that you can go to when the proverbial crap hits the fan?

In a day when there are “likes” and “fans” and “tweeps” and all sorts of ways to stay connected with other people in the social universe, I have to go back in time, when my circle consisted of friends I got to see face to face nearly every day. From the sandbox to my partying balls college daze, I can recognize now that I’ve always had some form of circle. And even though these circles have taken on different incarnations over the years, I’ve been extremely fortunate to have them.

There’s no doubting that a beloved human being like Junior Seau had his circle. And so I go back to O’Brien’s question, and the only thing that makes any sense at all is that in order for our trusted inner circles to work, we have to be the straw that stirs the drink. In other words, we have to have enough trust in the people we surround ourselves with to talk about the shitty times we may be going through, be it divorce, depression, drugs and, well, you get the point.

The Loose Cannons and other talk radio hosts mentioned that there were plenty of warning signs with Seau, that playing 20 years in the NFL had to have some kind of effect on his brain. Researchers are trying to make the correlation between head injuries and concussions to depression and other neurological disorders.

Seau killed himself on the same day the NFL levied out major suspensions for current players who participated in what’s being called Bountygate, guys who got paid to allegedly hurt other guys on the football field. In addition, more former players are coming forth with lawsuits against the NFL, alleging that the league didn’t do enough to protect its players against head injuries.

Sadly, another former player ended his own life less than two years ago by shooting himself in the chest, like Seau. Dave Duerson, a key member of the Chicago Bears Super Bowl team, had been driven mad by what some believe were his post concussion complications. He explained in his suicide note that he was donating his brain to science so that it could be studied further. And just this morning, it has been reported that Seau’s family will allow researchers to study his brain, too.

But this is about more than just football. This is about coping through tough times and finding the needed support to pull through those times. It’s about getting help and trusting the people we consider to be that close inner circle of friends.

Seau’s life ended far too soon at the age 43. And right now more than ever, the family and friends he left behind will need the support of their circles, too.

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