Hipple has battled depression for years. His son committed suicide and his daughter resigned to cutting herself to deal with her pain. Today, Hipple serves as an outreach coordinator for the University of Michigan Depression Center sharing his story and experiences with veterans, students, and other groups.
His daughter, Tara, and former principal Adrienne Crockett joined him on stage at TKHS to implore students feeling depression to seek help, answers and to talk to someone.
"What you don't know can hurt you," said Hipple. "There is power in knowledge. It's OK to seek answers. It's OK to talk about it. It doesn't make you weak."
He told the students there is a stigma attached to depression and that makes it hard for students to talk to someone sometimes. "Mental health is feeling good about yourself and being able to be productive and part of a community and be able to handle daily stress. And you guys all face stress. Nobody wants to talk about depression and suicide."
As a football player, he said it was easy to see physical injuries on and off the field and easy for people to understand and recognize the problem. But mental illnesses like depression, he said, aren't something people can easily see.
After his 10-year career in the NFL, Hipple admits he didn't know what he wanted to do or where his life would take him. Although he had a successful business and a loving family, Hipple said he couldn't help but feel depressed. One day, he suddenly threw himself out of a vehicle traveling 70 miles per hour on the highway. He survived, but still couldn't admit he needed help and never talked about what happened.
Then, his 15-year-old son committed suicide. "I didn't want to live either," said Hipple who ended up turning to prescription drugs and alcohol. That led him to a short jail sentence for a drunk driving charge. It was while he was in jail that he realized he wanted answers and he wanted help.
His daughter, Tara, was home with her older brother when he committed suicide and she lived with that pain for years. "I would get overwhelmed by how much I missed him," she said. "I trained myself not to sleep. I hated being awake. I hated sleeping. I hated myself and I hated how I was feeling. I started cutting myself because I could control the pain - that was the only thing I could control," she said.
She was lucky. She called two of her friends for help when she was at her lowest. She's learning how to deal with her brothers' death and face her own depression issues. And she encouraged others to reach out and talk to someone and recognize the signs of depression.
Some signs of depression include:
- Prolonged sadness or uncontrollable crying
- Loss of pleasure in activities once enjoyed
- Social withdrawal
- Unexplained fears and thoughts
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Unexplained pains - headaches, stomach aches
- Self-injury behavior
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Irritability, anger, guilt, excessive worrying
- Inability to concentrate or make decisions
For more information about depression visit the National Institute for Mental Health at www.nimh.nih.gov. For suicide prevention, call the Suicide prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit online at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.