Franklin James Cook

Hipple Tells of Finding His Way after His Son’s Death

In Grief, Mental Illness, Prevention, Stigma on December 15, 2008 at 8:21 am
Eric Hipple and his son Jeff

Eric Hipple and his son Jeff

ORIGINAL STORY — In a story published Nov. 27 in the Deseret News, reporter Doug Robinson takes a revealing and sensitive look at Eric Hipple’s journey of discovery after his 15-year-old son Jeff died of suicide in 1984.

Out of the pain of Jeff’s premature death came the beginning of understanding, discovery and redemption for his father … But also the question that haunts him: Why didn’t he understand his son’s pain? After all, Jeff’s pain was his pain; it was what he had felt all his life without understanding it for what it was. The mind-numbing sadness and emptiness, the ailments, the listlessness, the confusion, the days when he couldn’t get out of bed.

Eric Hipple was living two lives. Everyone knew him as the quarterback of the Detroit Lions and, before that, as the quarterback for Utah State University. But there was a darker side. There was a man few knew. The man who once threw himself out of a speeding car; the man who flew his airplane between trees; the man who quit going to work simply because he didn’t and couldn’t care anymore.

Then Jeff took his own life and Eric’s life bottomed out.

Hipple now speaks nationally to educate the public on behalf of the Depression Center at the University of Michigan, and he released a book this fall, Real Men Do Cry, about his own experience with depression and about surviving his son’s suicide.

After Jeff was buried, Hipple began a free fall into self-destruction. “I gave up,” he recalls. “I didn’t care if I lived or died.”

He turned to alcohol and considered suicide. He was arrested for DUI in Oakland, Calif., and … the judge gave him a 58-day jail sentence … Halfway through his jail stay, Hipple realized two things: He didn’t want to be behind bars anymore, and he wanted to know why Jeff died and why this was happening to him. In 2002, he enrolled in an eight-week program in the depression clinic at the University of Michigan to get answers. He learned about depression and realized it had been the source of so many of his own problems as well as Jeff’s over the years.

The Deseret News story also features a reader’s comment section.

[The abridged URL for this post is  http://tinyurl.com/HippleStory .]

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