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Today’s Guest post comes to you from Mr. Perfect himself! *trumpets and fanfare* Mr. P., as you know, is the other, saner half of this relationship I’m a part of ;-). I’ve known Mr. P. since 2007, and we’ve been a couple for nearly 3 years and 3 months. Mr. P. has his MBA and spends his days as a Systems Analyst. His passions include history, football, fitness, music, and pop culture trivia.

Known for blazing his own trail, Mr. P. has taken on a different topic than I expected (from him or any of the other contributors), but highlights a very important issue. It’s an issue that needs some consideration, especially for women who have their sights set on professional athletes.

Mr. P. is currently working on launching his own blog, Solve for W.

The Silent Killer

Dave Duerson

I would like to take a different turn on this topic of relationships, in order to examine something we take for granted everyday.

When we meet our potential mate, or at least momentary object of affection, we make a lot of assumptions. We assume they have a place to stay, a car to drive, some source of (hopefully legal) income. We may think of these items as the “basics.”  We may assume a person possesses favorable hygiene, and understands the essential function of soap and water as a cleansing agent for the human body. 

 However, it is important to note that even the aforementioned assumptions must operate on a principle of self-awareness. In other words, you must be able to discern, in order to determine a standard, and thus measure of what is acceptable to you. The principle of discernment may also be assumed. I know too often I assume some acquaintances, family, and friends are able to make certain decisions, based on nothing more than their physical age, and “assumed” (there’s that word again) life experience.

 But…What happens when you have lost touch with reality? What happens when you can no longer make informed, logical, or safe decisions based on the physical realm in which you operate? Indeed, I am talking about mental illness.

 In my past experiences, I have too often heard guys comically refer to women (or the entire female population for that matter) as “crazy”, as in “Man! That (expletive) is crazy!!!! “I have even heard of a women’s mental state being brought into question by a physiological change known as “that time of the month.”  Alas, all women are deemed crazy, unstable creatures due to those monthly occurrences!! The conclusion becomes a declaration of sorts.

Mental illness is something that is often thrown around rather jokingly or as a dismissive conclusion to the differences between the sexes that we do not mutually understand (Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus, comes to mind). In all seriousness though, how SERIOUS is it? How often do we consider our vision of “Mr. or Mrs. Right” to include mental stability, among our sometimes exhaustive list of criteria?

Mental illness is and has long been considered taboo in the African-American community. African Americans are 30% more likely to report having serious psychological distress than Non-Hispanic Whites. However, the suicide rate for African Americans is generally lower than that of the Non-Hispanic White population (The Office of Minority Health).One may argue that we are among the most afflicted, given the legacy and history of our people in the United States of America. The fact is all slavery was not physical. Physical slavery is merely a tool of mental slavery. If you control the mind, you control the will of a person. Why do you think oppressors were so against blacks having access to educational materials, specifically the ability to read? When you are informed, you can make informed decisions, and more importantly, influence others. I was certainly not the exception in becoming the benefactor of such influence.

Just last week, I learned of the tragic and untimely death of one of my childhood sports heroes, former NFL safety, Dave Duerson. Dave Duerson, a native of Muncie, Indiana, was named Indiana Mr. Football 1979, and as a standout high school player, was recruited by Notre Dame. Duerson excelled at Notre Dame, both academically and on the field. He was drafted in the 3rd Round of NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears in 1983. Duerson went on to become an excellent player in the NFL, winning two Super Bowl championships with the famed 1985 Chicago Bears, and later, the New York Giants, before retiring in 1993. After football, he went on to become a successful businessman, specifically in the private food sector.

A few years ago, I watched on TV as Duerson, flanked by other former NFL players, went before Congress to discuss the dangerous consequences of playing professional football, and the need for extended medical support and a revised safety policy in professional football. Duerson was interested in studying the psychological effects of playing in the NFL, and became among several players who agreed to donate their brains for research. The NFL is filled with stories of players who suffered long-term mental effects of playing in the NFL, especially at a time when the focus on safety, and the equipment used, was not nearly that of today. Now you may agree, as do I, that playing professional football is indeed a choice. Many players today are lavished with monumental salaries, benefits, and other incentives that seem to dwarf any consequences of post-career occurrences. NFL Hall of Fame center, the late Mike Webster, famous for playing with the notable Pittsburgh Steelers championship teams of the 1970s, was estimated by doctors to have been in the equivalent of 25,000 head on automobile car crashes, over the course of his football career – a span of 25 years – from high school to the NFL. Webster was diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a neurodegenerative disease. Webster died from complications of the disease in 2002, at the age of 50, ironically the same age as Duerson, just last week. Further investigation just this week, revealed that Duerson was aware of a similar disorder he was facing, compounded by a failed business, foreclosed home, and a divorce from his wife of nearly 20 years. The cause of death was just recently determined to be a suicide by gunshot wound to the chest.

Duerson’s death reminds me of the critical importance of mental health in our relationships, both professionally and personally. Duerson was, by most accounts, successful in nearly all facets of life. We never really know how we or anyone else will handle a situation that may arise throughout our lives. Everyone has a way of coping, from drugs and alcohol, to exercise and religion. Perhaps, suicide was Duerson’s final way of coping with a seemingly hopeless future, accented by an ultra successful past.