Kenny Miles Shines Light on Suicide

kenny-miles-self-inflictedI like to think I follow college football fairly closely, but I never heard of Kenny Miles before this week.

Until last year, Miles was a running back for South Carolina. He had a rather undistinguished playing career, rushing for 1,341 yards and four touchdowns, adding one touchdown reception, in four years. He graduated in May and began working for the SC Attorney General’s office.

What makes Miles special is what he did this week – he admitted to a suicide attempt. When police originally responded to a call in November, Miles claimed the bullet wound in his arm came from a robbery attempt. When police discovered the truth, he was charged with filing a false report. He then came clean and publicly admitted the wound was self-inflicted.

Ok, so maybe he isn’t the paragon of truth here; so he didn’t discuss his suicide attempt until he was called out. He gets a pass from me.

Admission: I’m in the military, enlisted in the Army. What I know is that sports, like the service is a very macho culture. Despite a recent push by both institutions to de-stigmatize depression, mental illness and other emotional distress, seeking help is still widely seen as weakness. And there’s no room on the battlefield, or the football field, for the weak. The fact that Miles no longer plays football doesn’t matter – after so many years in the locker room, that train of thought is hard-wired into the brain. It doesn’t just go away after the last game.

By his own admission, he was diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety. What caused it? Too many concussions? Stress of ending his playing career before he was ready? Hereditary mental illness? I don’t care; he didn’t say, and it’s none of my business. What matters is that he was man enough to come out and admit it publicly. That’s the only way to destroy this stigma – drag it out into the open and let it die in the sunshine, like a B-movie monster.

Hopefully, Miles gets the help that he needs now. In a perfect world, he would have gotten it years ago, before be pointed a gun to himself. With luck, the next guy won’t have to wait that long.

“I encourage anyone who thinks they may be having signs of depression or may know of someone showing signs to seek help immediately,” Miles said. Teammates are the closest friends an athlete often has. Their job, their duty, like
those of soldiers, is to take care of each other on the field. More and more, they’re recognizing a duty to take care of each other off the field, also.

There’s a question young soldiers are often asked in training. Everything else being equal, who wins the fight? The answer? The one who’s buddy shows up first.

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4 thoughts on “Kenny Miles Shines Light on Suicide

  1. Reblogged this on In the Wake of Suicide….trying to understand and commented:
    Very interesting and supports what I have thought about the stigma and how men are supposed to be macho and “suck it up.” Men and especially those in sports are conditioned early to stifle emotions that resemble sensitivity. My son played football most of his life and trained in the gym nearly everyday. He had a macho personality and a big teddy bear heart. When depression hit him he was frustrated and moody. He shared this with me but he did not go for professional help. If only……

    • I’m so sorry about your son. In the service, we have a heavy suicide problem, which the Army is tackling head on. We have required training for everyone on how to recognize depression and self-harm tendencies, and steps to report it and help each other. Problems continue; we’re still losing too many brothers and sisters, but the stigma is slowly melting away. I’m not much of an athlete anymore, so I can’t say whether the same movement is happening in the sports world – I really hope it is…

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