ZEELAND, Mich. – Former Detroit Lions’ Quarterback Eric Hipple has taken his game to the stage. Now off the field, he speaks publicly about mental health issues and suicide prevention.
Hipple lost his son to mental illness when his son took his life. Wednesday he and his daughter, Tarah, shared their stories with Zeeland East High School students in a packed, silent auditorium.
Tarah turns 22-years-old next week. A few years ago, she said she was a different person.
“We made a pact that after my brother had died, if we were feeling the same thing, to come and talk to them, but I didn’t want them to feel guilty,” said Tarah.
After her older brother took his life when she was younger, she kept things to herself.
When she was a teenager, she said she started cutting herself. Until one day, her best friend said, “tell your parents or I will.” Then, Tarah spoke up told her parents she needed help.
In a simple statement throughout his speech, Eric told students, “(it’s not about the) bad things that happen to us, it’s what we do about them.”
“I was in a pretty dark place for quite a while,” Eric told FOX17.
Eric was diagnosed with depression. He said mental illness is stigmatized, so he focuses on empowerment. Eric educates people on the power of choices, and how he said “choices shape lives.”
“Once it’s opened up, how could you not talk about it, because you actually have a chance to help somebody else, maybe shape a life, or maybe save a life,” said Eric.
Tarah said if anyone is struggling to speak up cannot find the words to ask for help, then “tell someone you’re having a hard time and need help.”
“That is the strongest thing that you can do: that’s not weakness coming out and saying ‘I need help’; that’s strong, because you’re wanting to help yourself,” said Tarah.
State officials also presented the smartphone app “OK2SAY” to students. It’s a free app that allows anyone to report threats or bullying anonymously, or via text, phone call or email.
For other resources on depression see the University of Michigan Depression Center’s toolkit.
To get in touch with Eric Hipple, or to learn more about his story, see his website EricHippleSpeaks.com or find him on Facebook.