Monday, August 22, 2011

Suicide Is Preventable

Rick Rypien...

Look, it is a little late, we know, but we thought we should add our two cents to the pile of change.

As per the title, suicide is preventable. It doesn`t take drugs or anything like that to prevent. It takes friendship. It sounds hockey as fuck, we know, but it is the truth.

When people are affected by depression to the extant that they start having suicidal thoughts, they change. The change may be dramatic, or more likely, it may be subtle, but there is a change. Friends should be able to pick up on that, and while they may not know what is going on, they probably know that something is going on.

By all reports, Rypien was known to be battling depression. He took two leaves of absence from the Canucks because of it. Two. It was not a secret that something was going on with Rypien. Even if he had nobody in his life that was close to him, the organization that he worked for was aware of his depression. Because his organization was aware, the league was aware. Why was nothing done to save the young mans life?

We will illustrate our point by way of example. Ever do something horrible, like murder your wife and kids, and then get arrested? Of course not, but you have heard about people who do things like that. Do you  know what happens when they get to jail? They have all their stuff removed from them, like socks, belts, etc. On top of that, they are monitored closely. Why? Because they are likely to kill themselves, and we don't want them too, so we put measures in place to prevent them from doing so.

Suicide is preventable. To prevent it, however, does take energy. Energy, we feel, that for whatever reason, the NHL decided it did not want to expend on Rick Rypien.

Twice. Rick Rypien had to take time away from the Canucks, to deal with his own head, twice. Something was obviously amiss with Rypien. Here is our question: Why was he allowed to be alone?

It may sound insane. Rypien was a grown ass man and could do what he wanted in a free society. It was the offseason. What responsibility did the league have to him?

That only works if Rypien was a commodity and not a person, if he was an asset to be moved from one teams balance sheet to the next. But Rypien was not a machine, indeed, he was all too human. On top of that, the league knew that the young man was battling personal demons. The league was fully aware that Rypien was not exactly healthy. Yet it seemed to wash its hands of him.

Here is how it works in life: You got a friend who you are worried about because of X. If you have a brain in your skull, and some care in your heart, you go out of your way to make sure your friend does not have any time to be by himself. You monitor them, you call them at weird hours, you hang out with them during the day. Because, quite simply, suicide is something that largely happens when a suicidal person is left alone with their thoughts.

And that, to us, is what it boils down too. You have to be an asshole sometimes, because the person needs you to be. In the corporate world, depending on how integral you are to the organization, they employ similar safeguards. If you are known to be suicidal, you get monitored. People know where you are, where you are going to, when you are suppose to get there. Often times the person may be assigned a 'personal assistant', who's job is largely to hang around, so the suicidal person gets as little time alone as possible.

It sounds draconian, we know, but supervision is the number one tool in the arsenal to prevent suicide. Strange sounding as it is, it is. The normal reaction may be, if encountering someone with mental illness, to give them as much time as they need to sort there life out. But what happens a person is alone with mental baggage? Often, they drink. And when you drink alone while you are depressed, you get drunk. And if you are already prone to having dark thoughts when you are sober, the inebriation only makes it worse, and you become susceptible.

If suicide is preventable, the question then becomes one of responsibility. Should Rypiens family done more? Should the NHL as a league have done more? Was his new team, the Jets, negligent in how they dealt with him?

Rypiens former employer, the Canucks, said through their GM that they really tried everything they could to help Rypien. That may or may not be true, we don't know, but we do suspect that 'trying everything they could' probably stopped when Rypien signed with another team. In hindsight, it is easy to suggest that the Jets should have done more with the troubled soul they signed to a one year contract. It is easy to suggest that they should have flown him into the city, and had him stay with a player there, like say a Ladd. But we don't know what the Jets knew about his mental condition. Rypien had been through the NHL`s program for depression, the Jets may have assumed Rypien was healthy.

It seems to us that the NHL as a league should have done more. They were the the one party that knew, or should have known, about Rypien and his issues. They were aware he was switching teams, possibly losing the support system he had. The NHL should have had something set up to help Rypien deal with the transition. It should have had someone on staff who was calling Rypien every day, just to talk, to see how things were going, if he needed anything. It should have because it knew of Rypiens mental history.

Are the NHL, the Canucks, the Jets, responsible for Rypiens death? Of course not. But we cannot help but feel that this death was entirely preventable. People don't want to hear this, but so what, we will say it: His family, number one, let him down, and should have done more to help him. They, more than anybody else, should have been in tune to what was going on. But on top of that, yeah, we do feel the league also let Rypien down. If the league is going to put programs in place to deal with the mental health of there players, those programs should be robust, because the consequences of failure are so severe, and we can't help but feel that the programs, whatever they are, are not strong enough. Again, why wasn't there someone monitoring Rypien everyday?

We wouldn't feel this way if this had come out of left field. But this one didn't. Rypien was known to be battling demons, and had been known to be battling demons for years. We aren't lawyers, we don't know if the league or the team that employed Rypien owed him a duty of care in the legalistic sense, but if this league is serious when it says it cares about the players, then it owed him a duty of care in the laymans sense, at the least. It owed him a phone call, it owed him some supervision.

This tragedy was preventable. People who are mentally sick need to be supervised. We hope that the league, that people in general, can learn from what happened, and put in place the necessary changes into their mental health programs so that the next Rick Rypien makes it through the night.

Furthermore, I think Peter Loubardias Ken King should be fired.


  1. I completely agree with you. The person needs a strong support system with people around all the time. However from all reports, he was acting happy and wasn't showing signs of depression in the last few weeks. It appears that his support system ie family (off-season) may have thought he was improving and so leaving him alone for an hour or two seemed plausible. I guess it boils down to education, and did the family have someone to turn to, to get them educated on the signs of depression and the different stages. This is where the NHL should be stepping up to assist the family in being fully educated. Truly a Tradegy!

  2. You got it wrong, he was a victim of the NHLs fighting culture!

  3. DB trying to get serious, eh?

    Even though you were, I like how you managed to get an F-bomb in there.

  4. We don't want people who murder their wife and kids to kill themselves?

  5. Remember OJ's first court appearance? No tie. Laceless shoes. No belt.

    If Rypien had, according to reports, been in a good mood and happy. That should have sent all sorts of alarm bells off to those around him who educated themselves in order to help him as well as any mental health professionals helping him.

    When suicidal people all of a sudden become happy and upbeat, it is because a weight has been lifted from them. In 99% of these cases this weight is the burden they feel from living, and it has been lifted because they have decided they are going to kill themselves. They have decided when, where and how and have an incredible sense of relief in themselves because their daily struggles and pains will be over soon.

    If you know someone suffering from depression, and they have this sudden mood change, DO SOMETHING! It is not a good sign! They are not making progress! With a sense of urgency, HELP THEM!

    This is when they will need you most. Take it from one who knows. Both as a mental health professional, and as someone diagnosed with clinical depression.

    1 in 5 have a mental illness. Chances are you know someone. Don't try to understand. Don't think that they think or rationalize as you do. You can't, and they don't because they are ill.

    Well said Domebeers. People are not assets. They are people. Treat them as such. Whether they suffer from mental illness or not.

  6. Mental illness is a disease and condition that should be treated like any other illness. Torn ACL, Pnemonia, you name it. The teams physicians dropped the ball in not getting this guy help and staying on top of it. If it was a concussion you can bet your ass they'd have kept their eyes on it. Treat mental illness the same way. It's nothing to be ashamed of.