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Junior Seau's death shines light on mental health issues

Junior Seau was loved by everyone that knew him. He was an icon in San Diego, and constantly in the public. And yet no one really knew him. Not all of him.

There are so many things regarding Seau's life and suicide that we don't know. That we can't ever know. But it is worth listening to the voices that have spoken up after Seau's passing talking about the issues of mental health.

Bears receiver Brandon Marshall wrote a thoughtful op-ed piece for the Chicago Sun-Times noting that he believes treatment of his mental illness helped save his life.

"There are many people out there who are suffering and have nowhere to turn for help or are afraid because of the stigmas placed on mental health," Marshall wrote.

Terrell Owens talked about thoughts of giving up. Former Buccaneer defensive end Stephen White wrote eloquently of his own bouts with depression.

"The reason I am speaking up now is because I know that people who haven't gone through the kind of mental health issues that can lead to suicidal thoughts, generally can't relate to that mindset," White wrote. "But it makes perfect sense when you think about it. Few rational people would ever willingly take their own life. But mental health issues can lead you to a very irrational way of seeing the world."

Chris McCosky of the Detroit News wrote an excellent column on his own battle with depression that we highly recommend reading. He was inspired to write because of the widespread "ignorance" about depression he encounters.

"It's almost impossible to talk about it to regular people (bosses, spouses, friends). They can't fathom how somebody in good physical health, with a good job, with kids who love them, who seems relatively normal on the outside, can be terminally unhappy," McCosky writes. "And when you try to explain it, you come off sounding so pathetic, so weak and whiney, even to yourself — it's just easier, though infinitely more harmful, to suffer in silence."

Ignorance is the perfect word. I have close family that battles mental illness, and I'm always amazed how much misunderstanding remains about depression. Otherwise smart and sensitive people regularly become tone deaf on the topic. They just don't get it because they aren't exposed to it. This isn't a football-only problem. This is a societal issue. 

"I was raised in a community that mostly stigmatized going to see a mental health professional. Nobody wanted to be labeled crazy and there was this notion that if you had to tell someone else your problems that was a sign of weakness," White said. 

Seau's death is a tragedy, but the discussion it has inspired is healthy. It's important that the voices of men like Marshall, McCosky, and White are heard.

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