Eric Hipple was alone.
Over 10 years removed from his NFL playing days, the ex-Detroit Lions quarterback was in jail after being arrested for a second DUI and for not following the instructions his judge presented him.
And, yet, Hipple didn't care. Suffering from his own depression demons for most of his life, those issues were now compounded by what happened one April night in 2000, when his only son, Jeff, committed suicide. He was self-medicating with alcohol and drugs, spiraling out of control.
"I didn't care," Hipple said. "There was nothing you could do to me, so I didn't do any of the things the judge told me to do. I was down my own path of destruction, so he had no choice but to sentence me."
And yet, that stay in jail may have saved Hipple's life. It was then Hipple realized he needed to change and get some answers.
"About halfway through that period, I just went, ‘What am I doing? This isn't the legacy I want to have. It certainly doesn't honor Jeff.' So I looked for answers when I got out, and that was the start, when I realized we are the ones in charge of the course of our life."
Trying to find the answers to questions about his own self-destructive behavior and his son's suicide has led him to the successful path he now lives. He currently serves as the outreach coordinator for the University of Michigan Depression Center. Through his job, Hipple has made it his mission to discuss depression and make sure his tragic experiences help create understanding and help for thousands of others.
"From a personal point of view, it's been very rewarding," Hipple said. "To be able to take a very tragic situation and to maybe help someone in the long run, is very rewarding. And in the same token, it honors Jeff in some way. The typical suicidal mind isn't saying, ‘I want to die.' What it's thinking about is how things are so overwhelming and they just can't see life changing. It burdens them and they feel they are burdening the people around them."
Jeff's final moments
Hipple wasn't at home the day Jeff, a 15-year-old Linden student, committed suicide. His wife was just getting home. Jeff was baby sitting his youngest sister when he shot himself.
"He waited until my wife was pulling up in the driveway," Hipple said. "He got some cookies for my daughter and her friend, who were in the other room. It was a plan that he had. It wasn't just a spontaneous deal. He worked it out in his mind, which is tough."
Hipple was in Vancouver at the time.
"It was the worst flight ever," Hipple said. "I was in a plane with a bunch of high school kids. ... It was really hard."
It was a tough time for Hipple's entire family, but it seemed to hit the ex-quarterback hardest.
"I had a lot of guilt issues with it, probably more than they did," Hipple said. "Of course, when I unwound, they started unwinding a little bit, but they were a strong support. My daughter started feeling it five or six years later. She was pretty young."
Suffering from the same depression symptoms his son did, Hipple spiraled out of control - at least until those days he spent in jail.
Learning about depression
When Hipple got out of jail, he followed through with his plan to understand what happened to his son and to understand his own depression.
"I started to look for information and ways to help pull everything back together again," Hipple said.
He started with charities and got training in suicide prevention. He started talking in schools. Eventually, he was hired full-time at the University of Michigan Depression Center.
"They created the outreach position, and I've been with it ever since," Hipple said.
Hipple also wrote a book called "Real Men Do Cry," talking about his life experience with depression and his own son's
life. His research has answered many questions about himself and his son.
"He had every classical symptom of depression," Hipple said. "He had anxiety feelings and semantic pains. We went to his doctor and he didn't have the flu or a temperature, but he started withdrawing and his grades started falling off. He'd have crying spells - all those things. I didn't know he was at the point of where he was thinking about death.
"Every possible symptom was there. I knew something was wrong, but just didn't know what it was. ... I didn't realize until I got educated."
Hipple expresses his story to children, families and even veterans coming home.
There are a couple key elements Hipple wants all who listen to him to understand about depression. The first, has to do with that person not being alone. Another is that there are solutions out there.
"It's a brain illness and it's treatable," Hipple said. "There are so many ways of getting there. ... Something leads you there, then, suddenly, the symptoms take over. That changes the brain chemicals and then you end up in full-blown depression.
"It all looks the same when you get there, but it's really treatable. The problem is because of the stigma and people not understanding what is happening to them, they don't know what to do and then suddenly they can't get off the couch."
Hipple emphasizes that depression, if attacked properly, is treatable.
"Once someone understands what depression is and understands the right direction, it's about 85 to 90 percent treatable," Hipple said. "That's the good news."
Today, Hipple, and the rest of his family are doing well. He is married and has two daughters - aged 18 and 20 - living at home. He also has a daughter, 30, who lives in Washington D.C. and had a baby in August.
"We are probably the tightest family you have ever seen," Hipple said. "If there is a consolation, that has to be it. I give a lot of credit for my family for hanging in there during a time when stuff went really bad."
For Hipple the lowpoint was jail, but he found the courage to perform the comeback of his life while there. And through it, he has his life back.
Teen vs. adult depression
Depression can look different in teens versus what it does in adults. Here are some symptoms that are more prevalent in children than adults.
• Irritability or angry mood: Irritability rather than sadness is the predominant mood of depressed teens.
• Aches and pains: Depressed teens complain about physical ailments such as headaches or stomachaches. Yet, when examined, no medical cause is revealed.
• Extremely sensitive to criticism: Due to feelings of worthlessness, they are extremely vulnerable to criticism, rejection and failure.
• Withdrawing from some, but not all people: Depressed teens usually keep at least a few friends, but they will probably socialize less than before or start to hang out with a different crowd.