Iowa football: Sean Welsh shares his battle with depression in hopes to bring awareness
IOWA CITY — Sean Welsh delivered a powerful 973-word statement to the media gathered at Iowa's football complex on Wednesday.
The last few words of the last sentence in the sixth paragraph said all that Welsh needed to say.
"Success," Welsh wrote and said, "doesn't immunize you from depression."
Welsh, No. 1 at right guard on Iowa's depth chart in the spring, is a three-year letterwinner with 35 career starts.
But Welsh said that he has been suffering from depression throughout his college career, something that nearly forced him from the sport during spring practice in 2015.
"With me, it was a matter of pride," Welsh said. "I was really too proud to really admit I needed to go seek help the first time.
"If someone like me can come forward, have the platform to come forward, hopefully that can spur someone else who is dealing with those kind of issues to come forward."
Welsh said he began dealing with depression during the 2014 season, when he was a redshirt freshman.
As we progressed into the summer program, I had this inkling that something wasn't right," Welsh said. "I ate less and isolated myself from teammates. I spent more time asleep or in front of a TV than I did with people. Football, the driving force for many years of my life, went from a source of purpose to a source of apathy. I started to feel a myriad of negative emotions: sadness, anxiety, dread and anger. They hit me like a bombardment from the moment I woke up to when I went back to bed.
"It was every dimension of terrible. And I kept wondering what was wrong."
Welsh's decision before the 2015 spring practice began stunned Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz. Ferentz said Welsh didn't have "all of those things that you hear about indicators that someone is struggling."
"'Wow, here is a guy who looked like he is really doing well, and he's going to walk away?'" Ferentz said. "You can't judge a book by its cover. So many things that happen in the world that we don't know about."
"I was weighing whether I wanted to play or not," Welsh said. "It kind of goes back to it -- I was too proud to go in and see anyone about my depression, but I was too proud to quit football because of depression."
"It's considered a disease," said Dr. Jess Fiedorowicz, a psychiatrist affiliated with the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. "People get confused because we all experience sadness in our day-to-day lives. Things happen. I had a friend die a week ago. So we often think we understand (depression) because we've experienced sadness. We call that 'Little D' depression. This is a medical syndrome akin to pneumonia, where you have a constellation of signs and symptoms that come together, are persistent and are disabling."
Welsh began taking medication to deal with the depression, and was a starter on Iowa's 2015 team that went 12-0 in the regular season and went to the Rose Bowl. But he left the Hawkeyes for a week before summer workouts in 2016 to receive further treatment.
"It's frequently not diagnosed," Fiedorowicz said. "People often don't seek treatment, and as Sean describes, it's a matter of pride not wanting to get help. And that's why he's really a hero today by coming out and hopefully making others suffering with this condition less afraid to come forward, less afraid to get help."
"It's definitely a reason why I came forward," Welsh said. "I think it's much more of a prevalent issue than what people think. I think with college-age kids it was definitely the case."
Welsh has told his teammates of his depression, and he said he has received a positive response.
"I've had someone come up to me and ask about it, just out of curiosity, what (depression) looks like," he said. "What I've wanted, from day one, is be treated like any other guy on the team. That's what they've really done. From the moment I told them about it, until now, they haven't treated me any different.
"The thing about depression, I've found, every time I've relapsed I've learned a lot, I've adapted better. I've learned that I've needed a routine, I need to stay busy, I need to be around people. Just little things I've done to keep on top of it."
This article is written by John Bohnenkamp from The Hawk Eye, Burlington, Iowa and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.