Last night as I pulled into the parking lot before my rec league game, I began my 5-10 minute pre-game parking lot routine: screwing around on my phone. I opened up Twitter and saw the news that Rick Rypien had died at the age of 27.
Shocked, is obviously how I and many others felt. I knew about Rypien’s struggles with depression (which is why he missed most of last year) and that had me reflecting on myself. I've battled with depression for most of my life and I couldn't imagine playing the sport I love as my job yet still take my own life. (Reports have yet to determine if this is a suicide or not, although early reports said it was.)
I want to make sure everyone knows that if you have a friend or family member suffering from depression, please help them. Whether it is listening to them or helping them deal with an issue or helping them get professional help, make sure you're there for them. It could literally be life or death.
Our thoughts go out to Rypien, his family and friends and his teammates.
Now this offseason we have lost two current players (Rypien and Derek Boogaard) to either depression or substance abuse. The NHLPA has a program in place to help players with these issues. Unfortunately, the NHLPA's website doesn't go into detail beyond "possible treatment" being a part of a failed drug test. It doesn't speak to voluntary admittance into the program, or what type of services (beyond testing and education) they provide.
At the very least, this is when the NHLPA needs to step up and talk about what they provide to the players. It needs to be ensured that these people who risk their health on a daily basis playing a dangerous sport for our entertainment are getting the proper treatment. If all the NHLPA is providing is education and direction to treatment, that isn’t enough, flat out.
The NHLPA needs to provide constant education, access to treatment, monitoring of the progress of treatment (including if the player is actually USING treatment, sometimes people don’t want to help themselves), access to aftercare and consistent followups and evaluations to ensure there are no relapses or if there are, they are treated. How an organization that is in charge of caring for their members and knows that substance abuse and mental illness happens continues to not throw all their weight behind helping them is mind-boggling. You collect the escrow for a reason, spending it on this would be worthwhile cause.
Depression (or any mental illness) is extremely difficult to deal with by yourself. You need a strong support network of friends and family, professional treatment and followups. I truly hope the NHLPA decides to, at the very least, be more forthcoming with their treatment options and hopefully improve upon them.
As someone who also battles depression and loves this sport, I loved this article. Considering all the current news depression and other mental disorders have been getting in the sports world, it would be amazing to see a professional sports league help.
@pmullins11 thanks so much for the comment and for sharing. The League has a big opportunity here, I hope they make the most of it.