Collage of seven male athletes from various sports

Sharing experiences, removing barriers, and providing hope

Suicidal thoughts are a symptom of depression that many people deal with.

Fame, fortune, championships, and Olympic medals don’t make anyone immune to depression or having suicidal thoughts. Like cancer, diabetes, or other physical health problems, psychological health problems can happen to anyone.

More than 90% of people who die by suicide struggle with their mental health and/or addiction. [1,2] Researchers estimate that up to 60% of people who die by suicide have major depression. [3,4]

For any guy thinking about suicide, one of the most important things to do is to seek support and talk to someone about it.

The athletes highlighted below are some of the first to open up about having thoughts about ending their lives. These men are leading the way, showing that recovery is possible.

1. John WallJohn Wall speaking at a press conference

Photo by All-Pro Reels,  Wikimedia Commons

“Darkest place I’ve ever been in.. at one point in time, I thought about committing suicide. I mean, just tearing my achilles, my mom being sick, my mom passing, my grandma passed a year later, all this in the midst of Covid and at the same time… I went to find a therapist. A lot of people think, ‘I don’t need help, I can get through it at anytime,’ but you’ve got to be true to yourself and find out what’s best for you.”

American NBA player, five-time All-Star
NBA All-Star John Wall considered suicide after injury and mother’s death

2. Paddy Pimblett Paddy Pimblett post MMA fight interview

Photo via Paddy Pimblett Octagon Interview, UFC London

“Men have got this stigma where they think if they talk they are a weak man…You are not weak, you are stronger than anyone. If you can go and talk to your mates and say ‘lad, this is affecting me’…People think that bottling stuff up makes things better. I’ve been there myself…

The one thing I always say is ‘you’ve got to get it off your chest’. That is something that I did, I eventually spoke to someone and as soon as you do that it feels like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders.”

[Part of a powerful speech by Pimblett urging men to seek support, after a friend died by suicide. In another post-fight interview Pimblett speak more about his own experiences and surviving a dark period earlier in his career after losing a match.]

English professional mixed martial artist
Paddy Pimblett Octagon Interview | UFC London

3. Robin LehnerRobin Lehner in net for Golden Knights

Photo by slgckgc, Flickr

“I was drunk. I wanted to kill myself. I was extremely close multiple times. The battle playing hockey was nothing compared to the battle inside my brain. It was at its worst…

I want to help make a difference and help others the way I have been helped. I want people to know that there is hope in desperation, there is healing in facing an ugly past and there is no shame in involving others in your battle.”

Swedish NHL goaltender
‘I could not stand being alone in my brain’: Islanders goalie Robin Lehner opens up

4. Nick KyrgiosNick Kyrgios walking across tennis court

Photo by Marianne Bevis, Flickr

“I was having suicidal thoughts and was literally struggling to get out of bed, let alone play in front of millions. I was lonely, depressed, negative, abusing alcohol, drugs, pushed away family & friends… I felt as if I couldn’t talk or trust anyone… I know that day to day life can seem extremely exhausting, impossible at times. I understand that you feel if you open up it may make you feel weak, or scared. I’m telling you right now, it’s OK, you are not alone.”

Australian professional tennis player
Nick Kyrgios writes about ‘suicidal thoughts,’ depression

5. Kevin LoveKevin Love during warm up

Photo by Erik Drost, Flickr

“Day after day being the same you come to a point where the darkest moments come into play, and suicidal thoughts come into play, and you start planning it out….and those are really scary moments in my life… 

When you don’t face those certain fears, or those anxieties, or that depression head-on, that just puts you farther back, then you self-medicate, and when that doesn’t work it sets a baseline, and puts you back even more, and then you self-medicate – and you know that’s the slippery slope.”

American NBA player, five-time All-Star
Kevin Love: I still think about suicide

6. Hayden HurstHayden Hurst NFL player

Photo via Atlanta Falcons, YouTube

“There were weeks at a time I would sit in a dark room and not want to be around people… Just that fear of embarrassment. I had never experienced anything like that…

For some reason, people equate mental illness with having to be ashamed. It’s something you shouldn’t talk about. I don’t think it’s anything to be ashamed of. Everybody goes through something. The best thing my parents ever did was just being available.”

[Anxiety and depression let Hurst to attempting suicide after a night of drinking while at University of South Carolina]

American NFL Tight End
Ravens TE Hayden Hurst Talks Depression, Says He Attempted Suicide in College

7. Michael PhelpsMichael Phelps on the red carpet

Photo by Gage Skidmore, Flickr

“I didn’t want to be in the sport anymore [after the 2012 Olympics]… I didn’t want to be alive anymore… I remember going to treatment my very first day, I was shaking, shaking because I was nervous about the change that was coming up.. I needed to figure out what was going on… I am extremely thankful that I did not take my life.”

American former competitive swimmer, 28 medals Olympic medals (record holder)
Michael Phelps: ‘I am extremely thankful that I did not take my life’


HELP US PREVENT MORE MEN FROM DYING BY SUICIDE

Man holds head while talking to friend

Support our winter 2022 matching donation fundraiser

Our research shows that men search for words related to suicide most often between 9:00pm and 4:00am. Searching for terms such as “suicidal thoughts”, “I want to die”, and “kill myself”.

We are raising $10,000 towards a campaign to target men during this timeframe to let men know that help is out there. Thanks to a generous media partner offer, we have the opportunity to double the reach of donations, with a buy 1, get 1 free deal.

Learn more about and support our Midnight Watch Campaign:


For more information on suicide prevention see our Guide to Preventing Suicide and Suicidal Thoughts.


References

  1. Weir, E., & Wallington, T. (2001). Suicide: the hidden epidemic. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association journal = journal de l’Association medicale canadienne165(5), 634–636.
  2. Mościcki, E. K. (2001). Epidemiology of completed and attempted suicide: toward a framework for prevention. Clinical Neuroscience Research1(5), 310–323. https://doi.org/10.1016/s1566-2772(01)00032-9
  3. Cavanagh, J. T., Carson, A. J., Sharpe, M., & Lawrie, S. M. (2003). Psychological autopsy studies of suicide: a systematic review. Psychological medicine33(3), 395–405. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0033291702006943
  4. Lesage, A. D., Boyer, R., Grunberg, F., Vanier, C., Morissette, R., Ménard-Buteau, C., & Loyer, M. (1994). Suicide and mental disorders: a case-control study of young men. The American journal of psychiatry151(7), 1063–1068. https://doi.org/10.1176/ajp.151.7.1063