Dak Prescott Speaks Out on Brother’s Suicide, Gets Lashed

Just in case you missed it, Dak Prescott, quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, did an interview with one of his brothers this week about the suicide of their other brother, Jace Prescott.

I read the interview and I was so encouraged that Dak came forward and discussed not only suicide but also his battle with depression. This is not talked about enough, especially among male athletes. The stigma surrounding mental illness is very strong among males because of the misconception that men have to be “tough guys.”

I can’t say enough about Dak’s strength and mental toughness — his can be seen both on and off the field. There is no doubt that the interview, airing soon on In Depth with Graham Bensinger, will save lives and help others to speak out. This is especially poignant because it’s Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

“Mental health is a huge issue and a real thing in our world right now, especially the world we live in where everything is viral and everyone is part of the media,” Dak said. “[You] can get on social media and be overcome with emotions and thoughts of other people and allow that to fill in their head when things aren’t necessarily true — whether it’s getting likes on Instagram or something being viewed or getting bullied or whatever it may be. All those things create emotions and put things in your head about yourself or your situation in life that aren’t true. I think it’s huge. I think it’s huge to talk. I think it’s huge to get help. And it saves lives.”

And it is huge. So imagine my disgust when I learned that a Fox Sports newscaster had blasted Dak yesterday.

“When it comes to the quarterback of an NFL team, you know this better than I do, it’s the ultimate leadership position in sports,” Skip Bayless said. “You are commanding an entire franchise. … But you’re commanding a lot of young men and some older men. And they’re all looking to you to be their CEO, to be in charge of the football team. Because of all that, I don’t have sympathy for him going public with ‘I got depressed. I suffered depression early in COVID to the point where I couldn’t even go workout.’ Look, he’s the quarterback of America’s Team.”

Sickening.

Skip Bayless should have sympathy. Dak is one of the most popular players in the NFL, who has never lost his focus despite his mother passing away and then his brother earlier this year. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., with more than 48,000 people dying by suicide in 2008 (the most recent numbers). The suicide rate continues to climb and no doubt will shoot up while the effects of COVID are still being felt.

Skip Bayless should be ashamed of himself. Dak hasn’t lost focus because he has felt depression and suffered great losses, he has demonstrated courage, strength and he’s an example to the whole organization. He has stared the stigma of depression in the face and shown vulnerability. Not everybody can do that. But that’s who he is. He should be lauded for it, not condemned.

From what I can see, everybody has rallied behind Dak after Skip Bayless’ comments were reported. Fox Sports even apologized, which you can read below. Good job, Fox. There’s no room for hate and ignorance in this country, not anymore than there already is.

“At FOX Sports, we are proud of Dak Prescott for publicly revealing his struggle with depression and mental health,” the company said in a press release. “No matter the cause of the struggle, FOX Sports believes Dak showed tremendous courage which is evident in both his leadership on the Dallas Cowboys and in his character off the field. We do not agree with Skip Bayless’ opinion on Undisputed this morning. We have addressed the significance of this matter with Skip and how his insensitive comments were received by people internally at FOX Sports and our audience.”

It is my hope that we chip away at the stigma of depression and suicide. We do that by speaking about it. Silence only breeds more shame and nobody can heal in shame.

If you or a loved one is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please seek help immediately. Reach out to a trusted friend or family member. Contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or use the Crisis Text Line (text HOME to 741741.

You are no alone.

Rep. Todd Hunter Hosts Suicide Prevention Symposium

Rep. Todd Hunter

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day, which important for me. As I’ve previously written, I’ve been suicidal many, many times. I’ve been lucky enough to have a great support system and access to helpful resources. I’m alive because of that.

But others aren’t so lucky.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention states that there are 132 suicides EVERY DAY. It’s the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., with more than 48,000 dying in 2018 (the most recent numbers).

Again, this is a big deal. That’s why I was so pleased to be invited to Rep. Todd Hunter’s Suicide Prevention Symposium today, which was attended by experts in the mental health field, school administrators, as well as a number of students across the Coastal Bend who are passionate in ending suicides and educating the public about suicide’s devastating impact.

Data from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics says suicide was the second leading cause of death among young Americans aged 15 to 24. Between 2000 and 2007, the suicide rate among youth aged 10 to 24 was around 6.8 deaths per 100,000 people. Then the rate reached an alarming rate of 10.6 deaths per 100,000 by 2017 — a 56-percent increase in less than two decades.

We have a huge problem on our hands. That’s why I was so heartened to observe this forum. The students involved were so knowledgable about suicide and were eager to learn how to help others who are struggling. When I was younger nobody talked about it and I didn’t know to speak up when I had suicidal or intrusive thoughts. I can’t help but think my mental health journey would be dramatically different, easier, in the past 20 years if early intervention was an option.

I’m so glad that Rep. Todd Hunter has made this a priority. He has started a task force dedicated to prevention awareness and introduced bills that are crucial to data collection, preventive services and strategies in preventing suicide. I’m in awe.

“It’s time to shine a light and make a difference, ” Rep. Hunter said. “We’re not stopping here. This is the beginning.”

The forum also featured a woman who lost her son to suicide. While it was heartbreaking to hear, her story will surely help others understand the gravity of suicide and lasting effects. The mental health experts also listed local resources that I had no idea existed.

It’s so hard being a teenager, especially right now, because COVID has disrupted our lives and left a lot of people isolated and away from their support system. That’s incredibly hard, even for adults. I’m glad this issue is being addressed; I know without a doubt Mr. Hunter’s and his staff’s efforts will save lives.

I’m immensely proud that these bills and education services are coming from the Coastal Bend.

Available Resources Around the Coastal Bend:

Antonio E. Garcia Arts & Education Center (Focused on invention in at-risk youth, connects families with community resources)
361-825-3600

TAMUCC Counseling Clinic
361-825-3988

Todd Hunter’s Office (if you have ideas on suicide prevention, mental illness legislation)
361-695-2048

Follow Stop Texas Suicides Now! on Twitter
@stop_TX_suicides

Nation-wide Resources

Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-8255

Crisis Text Line
Text HOME to 741741

Please know there is help available. You are never alone.

To learn more about suicide prevention, please go here. Learn how to help and what the risk factors are to suicide.

Stay in the light, friends.

What It’s Like To Be Suicidal

Trigger Warning: Suicide, Suicidal Ideation, Death by Suicide

Preface: I don’t pretend to know what others go through during a depressive episode or why someone would want to die by suicide. These are solely my opinions, based on my experiences.

This is not an easy topic, nor is it a comfortable one to discuss, but that’s why we need to talk about it. The stigma surrounding depression and suicide leaves people feeling they can’t talk about it, and the silence is deadly. And so heartbreaking.

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

I think about Kate Spade‘s and Robin William’s suicides from years ago, and while most everybody was shocked, I really wasn’t surprised. In my opinion, the people who work the hardest, the most passionate and genuine, are the ones who struggle the most. I know it was hard for people to understand and I’m sure very scary that two such successful people could lose a battle to a little-understood enemy, that they could leave their seemingly happy lives and family, but it happens every day. Depression is an invisible illness that can completely devastate you, yet so many stay quiet because society as a whole doesn’t seem to want to understand. (Read about the history behind the stigma of mental illness here.)

It’s obvious that depression is misunderstood. It’s hard for people to understand that someone can make jokes and be depressed. Or that a person can be suicidal yet appear fine, even fully functional. Depression sufferers are good at hiding pain. I hid mine for years because I felt judged and ashamed. I felt like I was weaker than everybody else but that was the stigma talking.

I don’t get it. Is it ignorance or is society so fragile that people can’t handle knowing others are suffering so much? It’s 2020 — shouln’t we be more evolved, more enlightened?

It doesn’t matter why the stigma is there, it needs to end. In 2018 (the latest stats I could find) there were more than 48,000 recorded suicides, according to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. On average, the annual U.S. suicide rate increased 24-percent between 1999 and 2014, from 10.5 to 13.0 suicides per 100,000, the highest rate recorded in 28 years.

Those numbers are from two years ago and have increased, no doubt. I imagine they will significantly increase this year due to coronavirus and the resulting problems, such as increased number of depressed persons from job loss, trauma, health concerns, etc.

But I digress. I’ve been suicidal more times than I can count. I haven’t talked about it a lot, but I should, especially since it’s Suicide Prevention Awareness month. The only way to normalize depression and suicide is to talk about it and help educate, so here I go.

My mind goes to a time where I was staying at my parents’ house. My parents had taken my two young kids to their lake house. My husband (who was back in Corpus) and I had gotten into a fight, I don’t even remember what it was about, but I remember how alone I felt, so out of control. I had experienced bad postpartum depression a year before and it just lingered and worsened.

That night I was so sad, I could feel it in my bones. I was exhausted and it truly felt like I’d be unhappy forever. That argument sent me over the edge and all I could think about was I’d be better off dead, but I didn’t want to leave my babies. I didn’t want my mom to find me dead.

I ended up driving myself to the ER and was then sent to an acute behavioral hospital for two days.

Tears are streaming down my face as I write this. It’s painful to think about. I love my family more than anything and I don’t ever want to do anything to hurt them. Unfortunately, I’ll probably have more suicidal thoughts, but I don’t want to die. My brain is such a liar. Such a con artist, making me believe I’m not worth being alive. That my family doesn’t want me. It is my heart that saves me, helps me see through the bullshit. And that’s all it is, except it feels so real, and I completely understand how people could succumb to those big feelings and end their lives.

The people who die by suicide — they aren’t selfish, they were just sick and their illness just so happens to take over their brain. I think they just wanted to be free of the pain. Depression makes you hurt all over, and of course, the pain you feel mentally is pure anguish. It’s exhausting living with all that. I get it.

I feel like suicide could happen to anyone under the right circumstances. That’s why we need to eradicate the stigma and support those in need of mental health services.

Lives literally depend on it.

Risk Factors for Suicide Ideation and/or Attempts

  • Family history of suicide or child neglect
  • Previous suicide attempts
  • History of mental disorders, especially clinic depression
  • History of alcohol and substance abuse
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Isolation, a feeling of being cut off from other people
  • Physical illness
  • Barriers to accessing mental health treatment

Read more about risk factors on the CDC website.

Warning Signs of Suicidal Ideation and Behavior

  • Talking about wanting to die or kill themselves
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves (like researching how to buy a gun)
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or being in unbearable pain
  • Increasing the use of alcohol and drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated
  • Withdrawing or isolating themselves
  • Extreme mood swings

Read more about warning signs and how you can help here.

If you or a loved one is struggling with suicidal ideation, please seek immediately. You can call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

There are better days ahead. Stay in the light, my friends.