Former Washington Redskins quarterback Mark Rypien, the MVP of Super Bowl XXVI, says he once tried to kill himself -- the result of mental health issues stemming from his football days.
Rypien detailed his problems for Spokane TV station KHQ and The Spokesman-Review, hoping it leads to more awareness of problems from playing football.
"I suffer from a complex stew of mental health conditions," Rypien told KHQ-TV. "Dark places, depression, anxiety, addictions, poor choices, poor decisions, brought about from dozens of concussions and thousands of subconcussive injuries from playing this sport."
Rypien told the outlets, in separate interviews, that he was speaking out after the January suicide of Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski and the death earlier this month of Coeur d'Alene (Idaho) High School principal Troy Schueller from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. Rypien played collegiately at Washington State. His cousin, former NHL player Rick Rypien, also suffered from depression and died in an apparent suicide in 2011.
"Let's address this now," Rypien told the Spokesman-Review. "Let me share my story so others can share theirs. Let's get rid of this silence that happens when you're caught up in this cycle and you don't know how to find the help I've been afforded.
"My story is impactful because people see me in a different light. I want them to see me in an accurate light. I've been down the darkest path. I've made some horrible, horrible mistakes. But I've given myself a chance to progress forward."
Rypien said those poor choices included going to Spokane spas that were shut down as part of a prostitution sting in 2012. He also attempted suicide on the same day as his daughter Angie's birthday. Rypien said he swallowed 150 Advil pills and then drank a bottle of merlot.
When his wife, Danielle, found him, she poured hydrogen peroxide and charcoal down his throat, inducing him to vomit the pills.
"It was the thought that people aren't going to miss me," Rypien told the newspaper. "My life is as s---ty as it could ever be. I was shameful and guilty of poor decisions, shameful and guilty of being depressed all the time. I didn't want to be around anymore. I didn't look at how this would affect my kids, my grandkids, my wife, my family."
Rypien played 11 seasons in the NFL, helping the Redskins win the Super Bowl after the 1991 season and earning game MVP honors. He played for five other teams after he left the Redskins following the 1993 season.
"My story is impactful because people see me in a different light. I want them to see me in an accurate light. I've been down the darkest path. I've made some horrible, horrible mistakes. But I've given myself a chance to progress forward."Mark Rypien, on mental health issues he links to his football career
In 2012, he was the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against the NFL. Rypien claimed he suffered repeated traumatic head injuries and sought money as well as medical care from the NFL. Rypien also said his daughter suffered concussions while playing in the Lingerie Football League.
Rypien, who said he was diagnosed with three concussions, now says he wouldn't want his grandchildren to play football.
"People think you have to be knocked out to have a concussion," Rypien told the newspaper. "There are hundreds of times you shake it off and get back in there. It's all about the cumulative hits. That's what cause brain damage."
In November, police were called to his home for a domestic dispute. His wife declined to tell police what happened, telling the newspaper she worried what would happen to her husband if he were locked up.
"They had warned us when they put him on it," Danielle Rypien told the newspaper. "We're not talking about an antidepressant. We're talking about an antiseizure med they added to his antidepressant, and it was the second one they had tried. The first one was also a disaster. They had warned us ... maybe he'll adjust into the medication after a rough patch, but expect weirdness.
"This is not a snapshot of our relationship. This was a unique and crazy night."
Mark Rypien said he has strong support now from a number of counselors and doctors in addition to his family. He has been tested at the Cleveland Clinic's Neurological Institute, the only part that is paid for by the NFL's trust, according to the newspaper.
Because of that support, the Rypiens hope he can now can control his issues better than in the past.
"But I might get worse," Rypien told the newspaper. "I've got strategies to get me through the next day, the next year, 10 years. But I don't know."