Mac Engel

Struggling with a loved one’s suicide? Even a Dallas Cowboys player has trouble with it

Michael Gallup, at this moment, is not ready to talk in detail about his brother.

No one could possibly blame him.

Tony Dungy can only relate, as can millions of other Americans who are affected by suicide.

In November of last year, Gallup was told after the Cowboys’ win over the Falcons in Atlanta that his brother, Andrew, had killed himself.

In December 2005, when Dungy was the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, his 18-year-old son, James, took his own life.

This week is National Suicide Prevention Week. If you know anyone in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide rates “have increased by 30 percent since 1999.” In 2016, nearly 45,000 Americans committed suicide.

Gallup politely said he’s simply not ready to go into any detail about what happened to his brother.

He is one of eight children, and one of six who was adopted.

Dungy, the Hall of Famer, Super Bowl winning coach and current member of NBC’s Sunday Night NFL coverage, has had more time to process his loss.

“I don’t think we missed any signs necessarily,” Dungy said in an interview with me a few months ago when he was in Fort Worth. “I have talked to a lot of parents who went through that, who lost children to suicide, and they always want to look at that; ‘I should have recognized this, or I should have done that.’

“It’s not always there. You talk to people and they are just totally blindsided by it because you don’t always know.”

Personally, I vividly recall when a friend called me more than a decade ago to... talk. Kerry never called to talk. It was a short conversation because we weren’t that close, and although we were friends he had never called me before to chat.

Kerry was popular, educated, had a good job as an engineer, volunteered his time with teenage kids, and had a long line of hopeful girlfriends.

A few days after he called me, he took his own life.

I have often thought that his phone call to me should have served as a warning. In reality, there was no way I could have known.

This is what friends and loved ones do when someone they know kills themselves.

“You can’t beat yourself up on that. You can’t look back,” Dungy said. “The only thing you can do is be there for the rest of your kids and your family. You asked what to do when you have a tragedy like this; it pushes you away from God, or it pulls you closer.”

Dungy and his wife are people of deep faith and are not reluctant to talk about it.

Sometimes people are struggling and in our rush to do whatever we think must be done today, we simply might miss what is going on with a loved one. Or, more often, people are struggling and we simply have no clue.

Dungy said that although his son has been gone for more than 10 years, he always thinks about him.

“There is always something that brings him to mind,” he said. “I get people who call me and talk to me about this. I do think things happens for a purpose and a reason. You can benefit from everything that happens, even something like that.

“I have been able to talk to a lot of parents and siblings who have lost brothers and sisters. You try to encourage them and in that way you can encourage yourself, too. Life doesn’t end with physical death, but you have to feel that there is nothing else I can do.

“I don’t have regrets with my son. We had 18 years and I wish I could have had 78 years with him. But the 18 I had were very productive. I know some people don’t get that and I try to make my life with my other kids as good as it can be. That’s what it reminds me to do.”

Sept. 8 through 14 is, by the calendar, National Suicide Prevention Week.

Whatever day of the week it is on the calendar, and if you know someone struggling, ask.

To learn more about this, check www.nami.org (National Association of Mental Illness), or if you know someone struggling, call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or call 911 immediately.

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Mac Engel is an award-winning columnist who has extensive experience covering Fort Worth-Dallas area sports for 20 years. He has covered high schools, colleges, all four major sports teams as well as Olympic games and the world of entertainment, too. He combines dry wit with first-person reporting to complement a head of hair that is almost unfair.
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