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Paige: We must learn from

Kenny McKinleys death

Joe Amon, The Denver Post

Fans honor former Denver Bronco Kenny McKinley who was found dead
a!er taking his own life.
PUBLISHED: September 22, 2010 at 4:29 pm | UPDATED: July 29, 2016 at 11:14 pm

Colorado, which typically has one of the highest suicide rates in the nation, had
a record 940 deaths by suicide last year. The Denver Post, Sept. 12, 2010
Why would a smart, personable, resolute, happy-go-lucky Kenny McKinley
with a college education, a young son, a $385,000 contract and a bright future in
football and life commit suicide Sept. 20, 2010?
I think I understand why.
I know an older man who eight years ago this month was committed to
committing suicide.
The last, desperate, despondent, despicable act was all planned out. The
Broncos were playing on Sunday, Sept. 15, 2002, against the 49ers. I would !y
into San Francisco the day before, drive up to Napa Valley, enjoy a bottle of
expensive red wine and check into a nice inn. The next morning I would head
over to the coast and swim out in the Paci"c Ocean far enough that I couldnt
make it back to the beach.
My death would be termed an accidental drowning, and my family and few
friends would be horri"ed, but spared the humiliation.
I "gured out the details while laying on the sofa staring at the ceiling for hours,
as I did daily, and swallowing the pills a prominent Denver psychiatrist had
prescribed over a period of months Prozac, Ritalin, Xanax, Valium, Ambien
and Zolo# and swilling Jack Daniels.
I had everything to live for, but wanted nothing more than to die.
I was suffering from deep depression.
Gil Whiteley, who is a brother to me and had a key to my place, showed up and
said: Youve got to do something.
I replied: Im going to San Francisco.
Instead, he called my longtime friend and family doctor, Allen Schreiber (who
also has been a physician for the Nuggets, the Avalanche and currently the
Rockies), and shoved the phone in my face. I have a problem, Allen.
Dr. Schreiber checked me into a private room on the secured maternity !oor at
a Denver hospital. The nurses took away my pills, my belt, my razor and my
"ngernail clippers. (Im not about to clip myself to death.)

That night Dr. Schreiber prescribed one red pill. What is this? I asked the
nurse. Im addicted to a lot of medications.
Benadryl, she said.
But I dont have a runny nose.
It turned out that I had diabetes, which causes low serotonin levels in the brain
and depression.
I am so fortunate. Allen and Gil were there when I needed help. They saved my
life. I am not depressed. I never want to die.
Break your leg, and you can tell. Break your brain, and its not so evident.
Fi#een percent of the population in this country suffers from depression.
Many of them contemplate, or try to commit, suicide.
Several thousand of them do kill themselves annually.
The number of young men (15-24) who have committed suicide in the U.S. has
risen dramatically over the past 50 years. The highest numbers of suicides are
committed using "rearms.
Why did the 23-year-old Kenny McKinley commit suicide with a gun?
He believed it was the only way out of his misery, and he chose to do it. Thats
Truth is, there is nothing romantic, heroic, strong or good about committing
suicide. We mourn Kenny Mc-Kinleys death. We hope that we learn from his
According to those close to McKinley, there were no outward indications of
trouble. He had been cheerful at Broncos headquarters. He received an ovation
when introduced at a recent game at the University of South Carolina, where he
was the teams all-time leading receiver. He seemed OK, two friends said, when
he returned to Denver with his son Sunday. He appeared to be "ne Monday
when the friends went off to eat.
The demons of depression come out when youre alone, when you have nothing
to do.
But Kenny displayed some of the prominent, potential suicide warning signs:
Low mood, depression, despair and an expression of a wish to die.

Police investigators discovered that Kenny had been depressed because of a

second straight season-ending knee injury that put him on the injured reserve
list. A#er the surgery, Kenny had said he should kill himself, and listeners
doubted his words.
He was found in bed, and the aroma of marijuana was present in the room. He
did kill himself.
Kenny McKinleys symptoms were not understood. He needed help. His life was
not saved.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention ( offers help, and
lives can be saved. The organization lists warning signs, risk factors, immediate
actions for those who fear someone might take his or her life, assistance
resources. There are suicide hotline numbers to call in Denver (303-860-1200)
and other metro cities, and throughout Colorado and the country (1-800SUICIDE). There are Colorado doctors specializing in depression, other brain
disorders and suicide prevention. There are people who care.
In loving memory of Kenny McKinley, no longer ask Why? ask What can
we do to save thousands of others in Colorado?

Woody Paige: 303-954-1095 or



Woody Paige

Woody Paige was a long-time sports columnist for The

Denver Post, serving for 35
in July