Sailors participate in resilient workforce summit

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U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs

Navy Region Hawaii, along with Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet (PACFLT) and the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations hosted a resilient workforce summit at the Ford Island Conference Center Oct. 24-25.

This year’s resilient workforce summit theme was “Culture of Excellence — Living Signature Behaviors.”

This summit is conducted on a two-year rotating schedule in the Pacific Fleet area of responsibility.

The summit gives Sailors the opportunity to directly interact with fleet program directors and subject matter experts about many topics. Such topics include leadership and personal behavior, creating a culture of dignity and respect, and suicide prevention, operational stress control and other Navy programs.

Guest speaker Eric Hipple, former quarterback for the Detroit Lions, shared life experiences that helped him be successful, and how they could translate to being a Navy leader.

“I was a good athlete, but I really got into the NFL because I had great leadership,” Hipple said.

“It is a big part of being a great team and taking the individual parts and figuring out how they work together to complete the mission. That’s really where I think the key is, at the individual level. Hopefully I can give you some tools today to get there,” he added.

Hipple mentioned how one of his high school coaches taught him that every choice he made had a consequence and he had to decide if he was going to weigh out the pros and cons of a situation. This helped him make those tough calls on field.

During the summit, PACFLT Master Chief James Honea addressed Sailors about the importance of the summit and how lessons learned at the individual level contribute to overall mission success.

“When you’re talking about your at-risk Sailors or those that need more attention, those are the opportunities to make sure that we’re doing the right thing as leaders,” Honea said. “We need to do right by them and get them the help they need. That’s what these workshops are designed to do — to help us build on those tools.”

Following Honea’s remarks, a panel of experts took the stage to answer questions on a variety of topics, including equal opportunity, sexual assault prevention and response, physical readiness, and other Navy programs.

Honea said the subject matter experts from the different Navy programs will be one of the most tremendous tools they will receive.

“It’s important that we take time to remember the role we play in the Navy as senior leadership,” said Chief Navy Counselor Demacardo Williams, a Sailor attending the summit.

“It’s my job, to my Sailors to be the best leader I can be, so when the time comes and one of my Sailors are going through something I have the insight to recognize it and help them,” Williams added.

Ex-Lions QB helps men tackle mental health stigma

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Former Detroit Lions quarterback Eric Hipple ignored the growing depression that culminated in his decision to jump out the passenger door of a car traveling at 75 miles-per-hour down Interstate 275 near Canton Township.

Before that unsuccessful suicide attempt in the late 1990s, Hipple had never even thought about his mental health. He’d felt increasingly blue in the years following his release from the Lions in 1989, but he didn’t consider it a problem.

Even right after leaping from a moving vehicle, Hipple wouldn’t see a psychiatrist. That would be a sign of weakness, or so he thought.

“I was (thinking), ‘Ain’t no freakin’ way, I’m fine, this is over now, I’m good to go,’ ” Hipple said recently. “It’s part of the man thing, but it’s also part of the stigma of mental health.”

Getting men to think about mental health, and to get help if they need it, is the focus of a research project called “Healthy Men Michigan,” which is looking to break through thought patterns that keep men from seeking mental health services.

It’s funded with a four-year, $1.2 million grant from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“(As a man) it’s my job to be mentally tough, so if I’m called on to run through the wall, I’ll run through the wall,” said Hipple, who has been a mental health advocate for nearly two decades now and helped shape male-oriented messages for the Healthy Men Michigan project. “We’re mission-oriented that way.

“That makes it really difficult to get to somebody and talk to them about something that might sound touchy-feely. It’s ‘Call me when it needs to be fixed.’ Let’s not talk about this stuff, just call me when it’s time.”

Men commit suicide at a rate more than three times that of women in the United States, according to the CDC. There were 20.7 suicide deaths per 100,000 American men in 2014, compared with 5.8 deaths per 100,000 women.

Many men tune out talk about depression or mental illness. So the project is reaching out to them in innovative ways, according to Jodi Frey, principal investigator for the Healthy Men Michigan project and an associate professor in the University of Maryland Baltimore School of Social Work.

“We really need to change our mindset to reach out to this very hard-to-reach population,” Frey said. “We need to man-up our messages.”

The focal point of the study is a website where anyone, regardless of gender, can take a quick three-minute mental health screening. About a thousand

people have taken the quiz since the site launched in January 2016, about 50 percent of them male.

People found to be at risk are sent online resources, such as referrals to local mental health services, and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255.

The website is advertised on social media, and researchers have recruited employers, sports teams, clubs and other male-oriented groups to invite men to take the quiz. Marketing messages focus on positive aspects of mental health, framing it as another form of fitness, and the manly thing to do.

Based on results of the online screenings, about 300 men ages 25-64 will be asked to participate in a study where researchers will follow up on their progress. About 150 have agreed to participate.

“This (online approach) is a real potential for getting health information out to men who aren’t connected at all to traditional health and mental health resources,” Frey said. “We’re finding that men through all of their years are coming to the site.”

‘Is this all there is?’

After a painful departure from the Lions, Hipple established a successful insurance business and did pregame shows for Fox Sports from 1995 to 2000.

But he struggled with unresolved feelings about leaving the game of football, which had consumed his life from the age of nine. He also went through a divorce.

“I was at a loss, didn’t know exactly what to do. I got the divorce, ended up getting remarried, starting a business, and kind of just threw myself into it,” Hipple recalled. “I became successful, until it hit me about five, six years later, like, this is it?

“Is this all there is? Is this what life’s going to be from now on? I lost all motivation.”

Hipple was mulling these thoughts on his way to Metro Airport, bound for a business trip when he made a decision. He scrawled a suicide note on a paper napkin.

He handed the note to his wife, Shelly, who was driving the car. Then, before she could do anything to stop him, he flung open the passenger door and jumped.

“All that stuff I’d been thinking about just kind of surfaced up, and the closer I got to the airport, I just didn’t think I could go.”

The darkest cloud of all

Hipple spent weeks in the hospital enduring surgeries and skin grafts. Though a psychiatrist visited his bedside, he didn’t want help.

Then the darkest cloud of all passed over Hipple’s life. In 2000, his 15-year-old son, Jeff, killed himself with a shotgun at his father’s home in Oakland County.

Jeff’s death shook Hipple to the core. How could his son have experienced the same dark thoughts he had wrestled with? How could he not have known?

Knowing first-hand the unspeakable pain to loved ones caused by suicide, Hipple no longer felt taking his own life was an option. Instead, he fought off his grief and anger with alcohol and risk-taking behaviors.

He was picked up for driving under the influence but balked at the terms of his probation. As a result, he spent 58 consecutive days in jail. It was there that he had a “moment of enlightenment.”

“Coming out of that was the enlightening moment, which was, ‘There is another direction I can take’, which is just pour all of this energy into something positive,” Hipple recalled.

“… We should start talking about it. Let’s find out why this happened, but let’s talk about it, too, and maybe prevent it if we can.”

Hipple got help from a psychiatrist at the University of Michigan Depression Center. And he threw himself into learning everything he could about mental health and suicide prevention.

Since then, then he’s traveled the country speaking to police, corrections officers, veterans, athletes and others about mental health, with a special focus on outreach to men.

In addition to voluntary efforts, he works with patients involved in “After the Impact,” a treatment program for people with post-concussion syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and similar diagnoses.

Tailored to athletes, veterans and first responders, the program has campuses in Michigan and Florida, and is run by Ann Arbor-based Eisenhower Center.

Former Lions quarterback speaks at Mental Health Fair in Royal Oak

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Meet Toby Harris a three-year old from Commerce Township who loves to watch movies with his family and act out what he sees.

Toby is on the autism spectrum; however, after being referred to Easter Seals Michigan, he has been in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy for six months and is excelling.

“After his therapy, you wouldn’t even know he has autism,” said his mother, Lauren Harris.

Autism is just one of the mental and developmental issues represented at the 2016 Mental Health Fair, presented by Beaumont Health and Easter Seals Michigan, on Wednesday, May 18 in the Beaumont Hospital Royal Oak South Tower Lobby, 3601 W 13 Mile Road.

The event is designed to raise awareness of the mental health issues of everyday life. New this year, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention will present former NFL Detroit Lions Quarterback, Eric Hipple, who will share his personal testimonial about depression, alcohol use and suicide loss.

Guests will connect with a variety of leading organizations in the mental health field and find information about autism, bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia, eating disorders, skill building for developmentally disabled, childhood trauma, substance use, suicide prevention and domestic violence.

Easter Seals Michigan CEO Brent Wirth said, “The mission of our collaboration with Beaumont Health is to break the stigma that prevents people from seeking help when they need it.”

The event is free and open to the public from 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. May 18. If you would like to hear Hipple speak, you must RSVP with Julie Marion at 248-551-9448 or julie.marion@beaumont.org. The presentation begins at 10:30 a.m. and ends at noon. Hipple will do a meet and greet in the South Tower Lobby for the general public from noon to 2 p.m.

Eric Hipple Opens Up About How Suicide Has Impacted His Life

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COSTA MESA – The former quarterback, a nine-year NFL veteran who played his way into the hall of fame at Utah State, now rises to speak on the subject he knows so well. 

Those who have gathered to hear his expertise include Ryan Leaf, another former NFL quarterback, and Darrin Nelson, who gained nearly 4,500 yards as a running back for Minnesota and San Diego. 

We are all here to listen to Eric Hipple, listen to him talk about trying to kill himself.

“Most people assume I wrote a book called ‘Real Men Do Cry’ because I played all those seasons with the Detroit Lions,” Hipple jokes. “But that’s not why I wrote it at all.” 

When the subject is something as cold as suicide, why not start with an icebreaker? 

Hipple knows suicide as a survivor, his 1998 attempt having failed. But he also knows suicide as a success. 

Two years after throwing himself out a car traveling 70 mph down the freeway, Hipple lost his son, Jeff, who was 15 when he reached under his father’s bed, grabbed a gun and ended his own life. 

“This didn’t just become an epidemic,” Hipple says. “This has been a serious problem for a long, long time. It has been hidden under the surface. We need to talk about it more, spread the word.” 

So he’s here, at Simple Recovery, a chemical-dependency treatment center, talking to a group of local educators and counselors and anyone else who wanted to attend. 

Hipple, now 58, does outreach for the University of Michigan Depression Center, traveling to discuss mental health with former athletes, law enforcement personnel, the military, school officials and students. 

“The instant feedback on the field, throwing a touchdown pass and hearing 60,000 people cheer, is pretty hard to beat,” he says. “But that’s only for a moment. This is something where I’m hoping the impact lasts for a while. So this is much more rewarding.” 

He shares his story not for his sake but rather for the sake of everyone else. For those suffering from depression. For the parents of children suffering from depression. For the friends of friends suffering from depression. 

Most of all, Hipple shares his story for those experiencing depression in some form without knowing what it is, how to recognize it or how it’s treated. 

He shares his story for someone, perhaps, just like you. At least that’s what he hopes, the old quarterback tossing Hail Marys, trying to make a connection and help others find the answers that eluded him for so many years. 

He had no clue that what he was feeling – the irritability, the lack of control, the hopelessness, the isolation, the anxiety, the need to drink, the thoughts of death – even had a name. 

Following an NFL career that began with a Monday night performance so epic that the Pro Football Hall of Fame asked for his jersey, Hipple outwardly appeared fine. He had four kids, a loving wife and a job doing sports television in Detroit. 

Later, he opened an insurance business that would prove profitable enough that Hipple says he was making more money than during his playing days. 

And yet, those initial thoughts of death had moved on to considering the possibility of death, of maybe swerving his car into a tree, convinced that would solve so many problems. Only after “obsessing on it for a while,” Hipple says, did he look for an opportunity. 

En route to the airport one day for a business trip, he wrote a note on a napkin and handed it to his wife, Shelly, who was driving. “I’m sorry,” it read. “I can’t take this anymore.” He then forced open the door and sent himself skidding across the pavement. 

For years, only five people – Hipple, Shelly, his parents and a doctor – knew he had attempted suicide because his wife stashed the note in her pocket. Everyone else was told it was an accident. 

“I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to open a car door going 70 mph, but it’s hard,” Hipple says. “The story I was telling people was ridiculous. But no one wanted to consider the other possibility. It was like, ‘Hey, that’s a crazy story,’ rather than questioning what really happened. No one wanted to talk about it.” 

He recalls the memory here so matter-of-factly that the words he wrote on that napkin appear on one of the slides during his presentation, if as they aren’t the least bit intimate. 

Hipple speaks just as bluntly about his son’s suicide, about all the signs he and others around Jeff missed and wonders if more discussion could have saved Jeff’s life. 

“If someone dies in a car accident, everyone gathers together and asks about what happened,” Hipple says. “After a suicide, it’s typically silent.” 

It wasn’t until serving a 58-day jail term on a DUI conviction that Hipple reached the point of wanting to make a change, of wanting answers, of wanting to know that what he felt had a name and the name was depression. 

Along the way, he produced his book – co-written with a psychotherapist and a psychologist – 132 pages of aching confession and tender guidance, Hipple reaching deep inside himself in an effort to reach out to others. 

“The change came when my own lack of responsibility hit me,” he says. “The other guys locked up with me had no responsibility at all. I didn’t want to be one of those guys. I realized I had chosen my way to jail and I could choose my way out.” 

The story he tells here is straight from the pages of “Real Men Do Cry,” which is fitting for the old quarterback, Hipple himself the most open of books. 

For more information on the University of Michigan Depression Center, go to www.depressioncenter.org

To contact Simple Recovery’s 24-hour substance-abuse line, call 855-244-1933. 

For the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, call 800-273-8255. 

Contact the writer: jmiller@ocregister.com