When Rick DiPietro of the New York Islanders, whose name has become shorthand for extremely long-term contracts that don’t often work out, was waived and sent to the AHL Bridgeport Sound Tigers, it was a very bad experience for him, to say the least.
“[The Islanders] ripped my heart out, stabbed it, set it on fire and flushed it down the toilet,” he told Kevin Maher of News 12 Long Island.
He told Maher that he’s not sure if he’s part of the Isles’ future and then dropped a bomb on fans everywhere by revealing that the combined weight of his injuries, his less-than-stellar record between the pipes and hatred from fans had all built up in him and caused him to think about committing suicide.
Interestingly, the New York Post‘s Brett Cyrgalis and ESPN’s Katie Strang are now claiming that things were taken a little out of context. It still sounds to me like the talk of someone who has been depressed, but who feels better at the current time and might be somewhat embarrassed about what they said while feeling worse, or who’s using humor to make it better:
I’m going to give the majority of people responding to this credit where credit is due. Most of the comments I have seen have been supportive of DiPietro, compassionate, understanding and hoping for the best for him–because despite this after-the-fact attempt to lighten the mood, it still sounds like he’s been through some rough times because he admits to feeling depressed and his wife really helped him.
But there’s always that ugly side of humanity: the people who think that depression is just some temporary trifle of bad feelings and can’t affect anyone who makes a certain amount of money, who has a certain amount of fame or who lives in a certain part of the world. Depression literally does not care who you are, what you do, what your bank account looks like or where you lay your head at night. It is a mood disorder that can show up in many different ways.
Think of it this way, although this is a rather simplistic view: depression is like listening to the radio, except instead of the same Taylor Swift song being on over and over again, it’s the same nagging negative thoughts bugging you over and over again, making it impossible to focus on anything else and try to feel better without some sort of external help. Medicine, therapy, certain other things–those all may help a depressed person feel better, but so does support from the people around you, like DiPietro’s wife.
It’s especially strange that some hockey fans are holding on to the view of DiPietro as pathetic, unworthy of compassion and still worth joking about–I saw a tweet joking that he will be out for four to six weeks with feelings. That’s because the league is really trying to raise awareness about mental health issues.
The Vancouver Canucks have really taken the lead on this one because of the untimely suicide of Rick Rypien, who had clinical depression for more than 10 years. Kevin Bieksa, who helped Rypien in some dark times, is a huge part of the Canucks’ efforts. Other teams, especially in Canada, are also beefing up their awareness efforts too. I’ve seen “Hockey Talks” logos as official team Twitter avatars and on the boards during games.
There was also that one day where putting the hashtag #BellLetsTalk on any tweet whatsoever donated a nickel to mental health programs in Canada, netting thousands upon thousands of dollars. I maintain that AT&T, Verizon or another phone company in America could do the same thing for a day too. Many players and fans added their tweets to the effort that day.
But mental health still carries such a stigma that I am at a loss to explain. Jennifer Lawrence, who won the Oscar for her portrayal of a woman with mental illness in “Silver Linings Playbook,” put it this way:
“It’s just so bizarre how in this world if you have asthma, you take asthma medication. If you have diabetes, you take diabetes medication. But as soon as you have to take medicine for your mind, it’s such a stigma behind it,” she said.
It still sounds like DiPietro’s been through some hard times and had trouble dealing with them, even if he tempers his statements after the fact. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that athletes are people too, people who have lives that don’t revolve solely around the ice and people whose minds can sometimes be their own worst enemy.