Deion Sanders Opens Up About Dealing with Depression, Suicidal Thoughts

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVMay 31, 2021

College Football:  Closeup of Jackson State coach Deion Sanders before game vs Alabama A&M at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Jackson, MS 4/10/2021
CREDIT: David E. Klutho (Photo by David E. Klutho/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images) (Set Number: X163578 TK1)
Set Number: X163578 TK1

Hall of Famer Deion Sanders acknowledged he was "suicidal" while going through a divorce with his first wife and losing custody of his two children, Deion Jr. and Deiondra.

During an appearance on I Am Athlete, Sanders said (1:08:19 mark) he "had everything" in terms of being a marketable two-sport star at the top of his game. However, he added that "my babies had been taken from me," which put a strain on his mental health.

The 53-year-old recounted how he had gotten into a car crash in Cincinnati and implied he had purposefully driven his vehicle off the road.

Sanders previously addressed the matter in his autobiography, Power, Money & Sex: How Success Almost Ruined My Life, which was published in 1999.

"I was going through the trials and tribulations of life," he wrote (via The Undefeated's Kelley D. Evans). "I was pretty much running on fumes. I was empty, no peace, no joy. Losing hope with the progression of everything."

Through his agent, he was connected to a pastor from Columbus, Ohio, who helped him find a better balance in life through "spiritual help."

"I gave my life to the Lord in a condo all alone in Cincinnati, Ohio, while I was playing baseball," Sanders said on the show. "I went through a roller coaster of emotions. I was at the bottom of, to me, what life was."

Sanders also discussed the importance of athletes, especially male athletes, talking about their mental health issues and checking in on each other.

Earlier this month, the Pro Football Hall of Fame launched its Hall of Fame Behavioral Health program. The effort is intended to provide the necessary resources to current and former players and their families to help address issues tied to mental and behavioral health and substance abuse.

Harvard's Football Players Health Study released the results of a study in 2019 that found players who reported a higher frequency of concussion-related symptoms when they suited up "were significantly more likely to report having cognitive impairment1, depression, and anxiety later in life."

The likelihood of a player suffering from depression later in life also rose nine percent for every five seasons he spent in the NFL.