One of the most common items heard from sports newscasters and sports talk radio personalities when talking about the topic of Junior Seau's suicidality has been this kind of comment, "All those who knew him said he has been so cheerful in recent weeks; certainly this means he's wasn't suicidal."
Not true. Suicide is about an escape from the pain, real or imagined, in the suicidal person's life. Once the desire has been made to take one's own life, the suicidal individual often exhibits an unusually notable upturn in their mood, a time of what I call "suicide euphoria."
Here is what I wrote for the State of Maine about the relatively unknown condition of "Suicide Euphoria":
Sometimes depressed, despondent, angry, or agitated individuals consider, and then finalize, suicidal thoughts that may become a defined “suicide plan.” Once this occurs, the behavior in a potentially suicidal person may appear as “suicide euphoria” by an observer. This “feeling” of great happiness or well-being is based on the idea that very soon “no pain” will exist for the suicidal person. This state of euphoria may fool helpers and gatekeepers who are thinking that a “flight into health” is taking place for the individual. Friends and families of suicide victims are often confounded with a sense that this was not a suicide because of the cheerfulness of a person expressing this euphoria. When the action of suicide is planned, the vulnerable person may actually be appear calm, and demonstrate short periods of hard to understand happiness.Junior Seau's suicide was thoughtfully completed. He called his children and left goodbye messages of love to them.
Methods and timing of suicides are important clues to decoding suicides. Seau's choice of the high lethality method of a gun, combined with the specific placement of the shot to his chest, was a direct copycat of the suicide of David Duerson on February 17, 2011. Duerson inflicted a self-inflicted gunshot to his chest and sent a text message to his family saying he wanted his brain sent for research to the Boston University School of Medicine to study it for chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) caused by playing professional football.
Seau purposely shot himself in his chest to make certain his head (and thus his brain) was not damaged, so testing could occur. He was sending a nonverbal message to his family and friends.
The timing of Junior Seau's previous suicide attempt is telling, as well, that Seau was aware of the deaths of his peers. Seau drove his white Cadillac SUV off a coastal cliff at Carlsbad, California hours after he was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence, on Monday morning, October 18, 2010. It is to be noted that NFL player Kendrick L. McKinley had killed himself on Monday, September 20, 2010, exactly a month before Seau's probable attempted suicide.
Suicide euphoria, behavior contagion, and copycat behavior are all underpinnings of the Junior Seau suicide that are being ignored in mainstream sports discussions of this self-death. Seau's suicide will not be the last among former NFL players, and this will be especially true if people don't get the message he was trying to send.
There is a map among these deaths, and it is time to start reading it.