The injuries are real, but we’ve been knocked in the head over and over again with the idea that head trauma causes suicide by a more direct route. It’s not that the symptoms of concussion bring people down; it’s that the concussion itself does something to our brains—it disables the neural wiring that prevents normal people from killing themselves. What makes an ex-football player shoot himself? Not his swollen joints or his twisted spine. Not his marital problems or his personal bankruptcy. Not the headaches or the memory loss or the years of drug abuse. It’s that some fleshy circuit-breaker in his head has been knocked offline—a sprained amygdala, a broken frontal lobe, a locus coeruleus in disrepair.
Why are we so entranced by these brain-based explanations for suicide, when so many others would do just fine?
Former players kill themselves for the same reason as everyone else—because they’re sad and alone and deprived of the psychiatric care that could maybe save their lives. After Andre Waters passed away in 2006, one of his nieces described his mental state for Dave Scheiber of theTampa Bay Times: “I saw him suffer in silence,” she said. “I was right in his midst for three years and every morning he would wake up with this big sigh, it never failed.” Waters never sought medication or therapy for his troubles. “He would try to cover it up,” she explained, “because he didn’t want to bring everyone else down.”
by Daniel Engber (emphasis in paragraph 3 mine)