Former Detroit Lions' quarterback brings message of hope around mental health

Former Detroit Lions quarterback Eric Hipple has battled through destructive thoughts caused by depression after losing his 15-year-old son Jeff to suicide. He now travels to different cities using his personal experience in hopes of breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health.

Eric Hipple uses personal experience to break down the stigma surrounding mental health and suicide

Former Detroit Lions quarterback Eric Hipple (Melissa Nakhavoly/CBC)

Former Detroit Lions' quarterback Eric Hipple has battled through destructive thoughts caused by depression after losing his 15-year-old son Jeff to suicide.

He now travels to different cities using his personal experience in hopes of breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health.

"What inspires me is the hope maybe someone going through similar circumstances doesn't have to go through this bottom to get back up again," said Hipple during his visit to Windsor Monday.

Hipple was the keynote speaker at the Hope in the City luncheon hosted by the Salvation Army.

"We really wanted to bring somebody in who has the name locally and really is looked up to and has brought so much to his community. Eric was a no-brainer for us," said Shannon Wise, spokesperson for the Salvation Army. 

Since his son's death, Hipple said times have changed for the better. Now he is able to speak freely about mental illness whereas years ago that wasn't always the case.

"There was a time I couldn't go into a school and talk about suicide. You couldn't even use the word. In fact if they thought it they would run from the hills," Hipple said. "It was because they didn't quite understand it themselves and they didn't have the resources for it so there was fear."

Hipple said part of eliminating stigma is addressing mental health within the community and using community partners as a tool.

"There's more knowledge that can come from the community by saying 'hey we're here.'"

Hipple also spoke of his book Real Men Do Cry which addresses suicide loss. The book also includes tools for counselors and mental health professionals.

Melissa Nakhavoly