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Do You Know a Jovan Belcher?
As I stumbled my way up Billy Graham Parkway I could feel the wind of zooming cars pushing me up against the bridge railing. I was so high on marijuana I wasn’t exactly sure if I could feel anything. But even through the swirling of my conscious and subconscious states I knew I was in danger. But I couldn’t control myself. I eventually made it up Woodlawn Road and into the nearest gas station. After stealing some chips and cookies with more than $20 in my pocket, I headed to a familiar Internet sweepstakes joint. I would be kicked out for touching a girl without permission. About eight hours later I would wake up in another sweepstakes joint with a warrant out for my arrest.
How in the hell did this happen? I thought. I refused to believe some of the things I had done in the last 24 hours, but I couldn’t deny the trail of evidence I had left. As I spent the following night in jail I was terrified thinking what could have happened considering my history with depression, anxiety, and mental illness.
I once felt like Jovan Belcher, linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs. I seemed to be in a good place. D-1 scholarship. Young. At a prestigious school. But I still had raging thoughts of wanting to take my own life. I didn’t feel like I had anything to live for. This is why my heart goes out to the families of Jovan Belcher, Kassandra Perkins and their 3-month old daughter. Belcher had reportedly been struggling with alcohol, addiction to painkillers, and head trauma from a recent concussion. Who knows how much drugs influenced him to finally snap and kill his girlfriend? He traveled to the Chiefs facility and killed himself in front of his coach and general manager.
It really hit home with me that people like Jovan are all around us, in need of help, and we might not even know it. I remember my father looking at the TV screen and calling Jovan “selfish” and “a coward” for his actions. I wondered if he would have stood at the church podium and said those same things about me had I killed myself during my lonely and depressed days at Duke University. Regardless, we should all want to genuinely connect with the people around us.
I think Brady Quinn, also a member of the Chiefs, said it best: “When you ask someone how they are doing, do you really mean it? When you answer someone back how you are doing, are you really telling the truth?…Hopefully, people can learn from this and try to actually help if someone is battling something deeper on the inside than what they are revealing on a day-to-day basis.” Amen.
This article submitted by staff writer Ifreke Okpokowuruk, an aspiring musician from Charlotte, North Carolina. He’s a former Duke University student and you can tweet him at @qcityproduction.