Rest In Peace: Gene Atkinson III

I wrote earlier about how it’s hard for men to talk about their feelings. Men, we really need to because it’s literally killing us.

Earlier this week, former NFL player and Notre Dame Superstar, Gene Atkinson III passed away after a long battle with guilt and depression. He has just turned 27. While no one has formerly said how he died, it is widely speculated that he committed suicide just as his twin brother Josh had done on Christmas Day last year.

The brothers’ father was former NFL player and Super Bowl champion George Atkinson II, but the brothers were raised by their mother who has been described as a schizophrenic who self-medicated with crack cocaine. The brothers’ home life was unstable and they moved often due to their mother getting evicted for damaging walls or writing on them.

I can only imagine what life was like for these two young men being raised by an untreated, mentally ill, drug addicted mother.

When they were 13 their father took custody of them and gave them the stability and discipline that they lacked. They excelled. Both brothers would go on to play football for Notre Dame University and Gene went on to play briefly in the NFL.

Sadly, their mother died in 2018 from complications of Crohns disease. Both brothers had a hand in the decision to pull the plug on her life. This heartbreaking decision caused Josh Atkinson to feel tremendous grief and months later, on December 25th, he committed suicide.

Gene felt guilty over not being able to help his brother, calling it the greatest pain and suffering he ever felt. He too began to suffer deep feelings of depression and having suicidal thoughts. He was even hospitalized for a brief period after trying to harm himself.

In October of this year, Gene wrote an open letter about his struggle with depression and grief in hopes that it would help others reach out and talk about their pain instead of burying it and suffering with it alone.

Gene wrote that thinking about his then 2-year daughter motivated him to seek help and to keep fighting. He did however admit that he was still struggling and worried about how he would cope with the upcoming holiday season.

Unfortunately, it appears as though Gene Atkinson III, like his brother Josh, lost his hard fought battle with depression.

Men. We are not weak if we talk about our feelings. We are not weak if we cry. We are not weak if we ask for help. It takes a lot for us to open up. Doing so makes us strong!!!

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

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