On Jovan Belcher, Murder-Suicide and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in NFL Players

67-300x210Like a lot of people, I was shocked when I first heard the tragic news that National Football League (NFL) player Jovan Belcher had shot and killed his girlfriend, 22 year old Kasandra Perkins, before killing himself in front of the stadium his team played and practiced at last week.

Shocked at first because here was a guy, 25 years old, in the the prime of his life, making millions of dollars and yet for whatever reason, got to a point where he thought the only way out was to take the life of his 22 year old girlfriend and the mother to his infant child.

I don’t have any intimate details about Jovan Belcher or his relationship with his girlfriend, but I think it’s safe to say that Belcher was not in his right mind when he committed this tragedy and that the biggest victim of this incident is the orphaned child left behind.

I also think it’s safe to say that this was an act of domestic violence, even if the couple had no history of domestic violence, because killing your spouse, even in a fit of rage, is the ultimate act of domestic violence.

In my area, there has been a rash of domestic violence situations that have lead to homicide or murder-suicides lately. Most of these men were mentally/emotionally disturbed individuals.

A lot of times this type of incident comes from the desire to control other people and situations that we cannot control.

Sometimes when someone feels like they have exhausted themselves of every rational choice, they resort to very irrational and in this case, permanent choices that are destructive.

Also, many people who commit suicide often do not plan it, but do so impulsively.This seems to be the case often, especially when it comes to men.

In a fit of anger, irrational thinking, and/or sadness, picking up a gun and pulling the trigger probably wasn’t thought out completely, put an impulsive reaction.

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a degenerative brain disease that is seen in some people who have had multiple concussions or head injuries.

CTE and many similar conditions strike numerous NFL players, boxers, wrestlers, hockey players and soldiers, often leading to poor memory, coordination, depression and impulsive behavior.

Signs of CTE were seen in former NFL player Junior Seau, who shot himself in the chest in 2012. NFL player Dave Duerson, who before committing suicide, sent a text message to his family asking that his brain be donated to the Boston University research center because he felt as if his brain was “sick”.

Other recent NFL suicides include former NFL player Ray Easterling who shot himself in April, and 25 year old NFL player O.J. Murdock who shot himself in July.

Signs of CTE were also seen in an University of Pennsylvania Football player, who abruptly committed suicide in 2010.

Signs of CTE and other degenerative brain conditions are also showing up in Afghan and Iraq war veterans, many of them have committed suicide and other tragic, impulsive acts as well.

I’m not saying that CTE or any other brain condition was the cause of this tragedy, but I think it has to be taken into consideration as well as Belcher’s mental state.

Like in the military, in the NFL and other male professional sports, it’s often not popular to talk about feelings or problems, so men don’t. They hold it in and deal with them in the best way they know how, often ending up in situations where the only way they see out is through destruction of some type (violence, alcohol, drugs, etc.).

Maybe if Belcher had someone he felt he could talk to about what was going on, this wouldn’t have happened, who knows.

I do know that our society discourages men in most cases from talking about how they really feel and that in turn often leads to angry, depressed, damaged, frustrated, and hurt men who sometimes go on to hurt themselves and/or others.

I don’t want to speculate too much on this situation, but I do want us as a society to talk more about men dealing with their feelings and breaking through the stereotypes of manhood and letting men know it’s okay to ask for help.

Six current or former football players have killed themselves in the last two years, four in the last eight months.

Maybe this goes along with the CTE and impulse control theory or with men not talking about their problems theory. In my opinion, in many circumstances it may be a combination of both.

This is disturbing. Even without looking at CTE, this gives us a quick glimpse into the state of men in general when it comes to mental/emotional health.

6 thoughts on “On Jovan Belcher, Murder-Suicide and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in NFL Players

  1. If we consider this case on surface level we could relate it to CTE and impulse control theory. Generally people who do not have any criminal history or tendency they do these kind of acts out of impulsion…in a fit of rage anger they often indulge in act of violence. Depression is the other cause of this kind of behavior….person who has been suffering from mental depression due to factors related to his/her life can also commit suicide or even murder. Social support plays a very important role in dealing with these kind of problems. Every man or women should share their problems with someone…whom they confide. These tragedies can be stopped if a person talk about things which bothering or troubles him/ her.

    1. I agree with everything you said 100% I actually started to write about the social support part more, but I didn’t want to make the post too long and I am planning a post very soon on support systems. Thanks for taking the time to read and reply!

  2. I did my phd research on social support in relation to anger depression and burnout among nurses and I found that nurses who had social support both personal and at organizational level they coped really well with all these negative emotions and even burnout level reported to be low among those who reported high level of support. So what I think and considering my own research in view I can say support both at personal and professional plays a major role in dealing with these problems. And yes its all my pleasure to read what you write…actually this is my opportunity to read real counselling work u are doing whatever i have read in past is all about theories and the benefits. As i was always interseted in counselling thats why i am following your blog to know more n more about counselling just for the sake of interest although not doing anything professionally right now.

    1. Wow, your PhD research sounds interesting. I actually participate at least a couple of times a year in different research programs geared towards burnout among counselors and good support systems were always stressed. In the helping profession, many of us don’t have adequate support systems because we are so busy being support for others and it becomes extremely easy to become burnt out, depressed, negative, etc. Thank you so much for reading and following my blog, I look forward to reading and learning more from yours as well.

  3. I received my PhD degree 4yrs back….and i was completely out of touch with psychology stuff. Now i have started reading once again to update myself with all the psychology related stuff particularly my area of interest. Being a full time mother i rarely get opportunity to read but i love reading when i get little time. I wish someday i can write something valuable….right now whatever little i write that is more from a layman’s perspective.

    1. Awesome! I hope some day to get my PhD or PsyD, but that will probably be a couple of years before I even start. I definitely look forward to reading through your blog this weekend. I’ve been engrossed in psychology for about 15 years now and usually read whatever I can get my hands on (too much sometimes). I understand about what you mean when it comes to writing. Most of the time, even when I am writing about a topic I know well, I still feel like I have to research it a bit since I am sharing it with other people, so it is easier at times to write things from a layman’s perspective.

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