- Retired MLB player and suicide survivor Drew Robinson speaks about suicide prevention.
- Robinson was a co-founder of the Better Universe Foundation ending the stigma of asking for help and providing access to mental health services.
- Experts say there are ways to prevent deadly suicidal behavior.
Retired MLB player Drew Robinson has loved baseball since he started playing when he was six years old. His passion and talent for the sport earned him a spot on MLB minor and major league team rosters for over a decade.
While the pressures and ups and downs of playing baseball at the highest level were mentally challenging, on Robinson’s darkest day, the thought of playing baseball again helped him survive.
April 16, 2020 Robinsonexperienced a suicide attempt. After the incident, he looked at himself in the mirror and wondered if his injury would allow him to ever play baseball again. The fact that he was thinking about the future pushed him to call 911 rather than make a second attempt.
“Two and a half months ago [that day] I got really suicidal in that moment, and when I realized I was actually considering ending my life, that was pretty much the only thing on my mind,” Robinson told Healthline.
However, he said he did not want to end his life; He wanted the extreme emotional and psychological discomfort he was experiencing to stop.
“I could no longer bear the misery I felt inside; I just wanted it to end… I didn’t want my life to end, but I had no idea how to… ask for help,” Robinson said.
He doesn’t blame baseball himself for his state of mind at the time, but rather a ingrained habitual thought cycle that he’s had throughout his life.
“[For] For me, it happened to be baseball that created these harmful ways of looking at things… I just went out there and tried my best, and when I didn’t [do my best] I thought the world was ending,” he said. “[Unfortunately,] I found this to be a very universal thing… Whatever career I’ve had, I think it would have produced these awkward or at some point [concerning] Patterns I’ve had in my life.”
Growing up in a divided household, Robinson says he experienced uncomfortable and confusing emotions that he never learned how to process in a structured way.
“[As a kid]I was doing things from a place where I was playing, trying to sweep things under the rug and always trying to find a way out, so it came out to me as anger, irritability, emotional instability, and lots of ups and downs . he said.
Doreen MarshallPhD, spokesman for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, said teaching children from a young age that mental health is just as important as physical health and that it is important to seek help for mental health issues can help them overcome difficulties throughout their lives deal with.
“It’s also important that as adults we set an example in how we prioritize and care for our mental health,” she told Healthline.
However, she added that while mental health and suicide are often confused, “it is important to note that while the presence of a mental illness may contribute to an increased risk of suicide, the majority of people with mental illness do not die from suicide becomes .”
Robinson underwent four head surgeries to treat his injuries and reconstruct his face. A year after his recovery, he found his way back to spring training with the San Francisco Giants and later played a regular season with the Sacramento River Cats.
“The first games were in my hometown where I played against the local Vegas team, which was a mile and a half from my home [the incident occurred]. Having my family, doctors … everyone who was part of my journey up to that point and part of my recovery after that — that was the most powerful experience,” he said.
While it took a bit of trial and error with different mental health treatment options, Robinson benefits the most from weekly sessions with a psychologist and life coach, as well as self-initiated practices he calls the trifecta: meditation, journaling, and exercise.
“I pride myself on making time for self-care and myself … and it’s definitely evident that I’m at my best during times when I’m doing that most consistently,” he said.
However, he said that recovery is not an overnight solution, but an ongoing process.
“[I’ve] I’ve definitely relapsed into depressive episodes since trying it, and I’ve learned that everything is temporary, so I’m really proud of the progress I’ve made, but I know there will always be some things to deal with , and life will never be easy,” he said. “I want others to know that… asking for help is the most powerful thing you can do for yourself.”
According to this, almost 700,000 people die by suicide every year
“I didn’t have the strength, physically or emotionally, to say to anyone … ‘I don’t know what to do, please help me,'” Robinson said.
He hopes his foundation will provide a welcoming and empathetic environment that encourages people to get help before a crisis hits.
“[Once] it became an overwhelming experience for me, I couldn’t think straight, I didn’t know what to do. [I had] just irrational, clouded judgment, and if I had done something beforehand I might have relied on that. Hopefully this message and our foundation will help people feel more comfortable about taking a more sustainable and preventative approach to their mental health,” Robinson said.
The foundation provides care coordinators to connect people with mental health providers.
“There are many ways to improve how we feel, and once you actually put some effort into caring for that…maybe we will realize that there are things that are within our control that can really transform our brain health and brain function.” dr Sam ZandCo-Founder and Chief Medical Officer of the Better Universe Foundation, opposite Healthline.
He added that there are innovative mental health solutions beyond traditional medications and talk therapy. “Our community is evolving in the way we approach mental health. There is optimism about new treatment modalities that people may not have heard of before,” he said.
Marshall agreed. She pointed out that a pernicious myth surrounding suicide is that some individuals are “obsessed” with suicide and therefore, once they have become suicidal, there is not much that can be done to change course.
“Today, scientific research shows that while suicide is complex, it has a health-related outcome and may be preventable,” she said.
Robinson wished he knew this at the time he was feeling most challenged, but he says he’s also witnessed the power of prevention through the work of his foundation.
“[Hearing] People tell me, ‘I’ve never said that to anyone in my life,’ and to see their mental health journey begin right in front of me is the most fulfilling thing ever,” he said.
When you or someone you know is in crisis, help is available. Call 911 for emergency services or contact the National Suicide Prevention Line at 988 for mental health crisis support.