As most of you know, I’m not really a sports guy.  Not into football, like to go to a baseball game once a season but never pay anymore attention than that, the only basketball I watch is Lucy’s games… But I have always been a fan of extreme sports, if there is skateboarding, snowboarding, BMX, mountain biking or any other event with a “X” in front of it I watch and have even attended some live events.

I found out this week that many people were not familiar with the name Dave Mirra, he was not new to me.  I had watched his amazing BMX skills for years and  played his video games.  He had an incredible talent at the sport, pulling off a double backflip at the 2000 X-Games (see above video) is one of the most all-time memorable moments in the history of the competition.  I never met him, but from all accounts he was also an incredibly nice guy that everyone seemed to really love.

I have always loved cycling, over the course of my life I have had BMX, Mountain and Road bikes and have enjoyed riding them all.  I was in awe of Dave though, never when I am in that bike saddle have I had the courage or skill to pull the tricks he made look so easy.  There is a fear that comes over you when you are about to do something you know is dangerous, some people can focus and perform through it… And the rest of us squeeze the brakes really hard and stop before we hit that ramp.  I would watch him compete and be extremely impressed, but I was never able to truly relate, to be in his head at the moment he flips that bike over and over backwards!

Last Thursday Dave Mirra took his own life inside his truck on his property.  This came as a huge shock to so many! I have read that he had been suffering from depression recently and there is speculation that CTE  may have played a role ( CTE – chronic traumatic encephalopathy – According to the Los Angeles Times, CTE can only be identified through autopsy, but researchers confirmed the brain disease in 87 of 91 deceased former NFL players last year. Repeated head trauma is a cause and symptoms include depression and loss of impulse control.)

On a bike Dave Mirra’s motivation may have been a mystery to me, but in that truck I felt like I could relate to him.  I have written before about my suicide attempt and male depression, a subject I feel is important to talk about…  I want men to feel alright about expressing their feeling and seeking help when they need it.  I have told this before, but when I checked myself into the hospital the first time a nurse said to me “We almost never see men check themselves in”…  It doesn’t seem “manly” to admit you have depression or can’t handle your feelings, so men try and cope on their own.  I don’t know Dave, I don’t know exactly what he was feeling, but I have a pretty good idea and I wish he had dealt with it in another way.  Mental pain is extremely hard to explain to those of you who don’t experience it and I know like it seems like it is as easy as telling someone to “cheer up,” but it is very real and can be very hard to build the courage to seek help.   I hope that by addressing this publicly I help other men (and women) feel more comfortable seeking help… If you had any other disease you wouldn’t be embarrassed or ashamed to seek help, depression (no matter what the cause) is a disease that you can’t treat on your own, seek help….  Don’t end up like so many of our friends and heros.  Rest in peace Dave.

Suicide Prevention Information  or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or go to any emergency room at anytime (24/7) and request a “Mental Health Evaluation”

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  • Beth

    Heartbreaking. CTE makes sense, I guess we will find out if it contrubuted soon. I think as we are more aware of the trauma the brain suffers and the long term effects, we are going to see an evolution in children’s sports. It’s just not worth it. I know I feel a lot differently now than I did when my son was in high school playing football. Helmets are far more prevalent now than before, kids wear them for skiing, horesback riding, biking, skating. When we were kids I never owned a helmet for anything.

    Depression is real, and powerful. I have been there and can relate to those feelings of hopelessness and not feeling like there is a way out. Just wanting the pain to stop. Thankfully I never went through with those feelings but I have had it enter my mind. I wish he had found another way. I am familiar with Dave Mirra and have watched the X games over the years. Darius even has a “Dave Mirra bike”. It is tragic all the way around.

  • Jan

    Thank you Jack for putting this so eloquently. I work in a hospital that has a mental heath/drug abuse section. At times it is hard to remember that these patients can’t help the way they are. I have to remind myself of that when interacting with some of them. They can be rude and mean, but I know they are going through a struggle of which is not of their doing for the most part.
    Thank you again Jack for insight and hopefully this helps others battling a mental health struggle…it’s nothing to be ashamed of.