May 5, 2009 at 1:00 am

Terry Foster

Ex-Lions QB stresses early treatment in tackling depression

Rochester

Depression stalked Eric Hipple's family for generations. His mother ignored it. Hipple ignored it. Other relatives ignored it. But the former Lions quarterback couldn't ignore it any longer after his son, Jeffrey, committed suicide in 2000.

Now, Hipple travels the country trying to save lives and families. That message brought him to Oakland University this past weekend to kick off the Walk on Common Ground, a charity event for the Oakland County outreach group that helps identify and treat clinical depression.

More than 200 came to hear Hipple's story under blue skies. It is a story he tells quite often as outreach coordinator for the University of Michigan's depression center. And it is a message that is very important in these tough economic times as people lose jobs, homes and hope.

"Our message is, let's get it treated earlier. Let's recognize it earlier and let's get a handle on the stresses of life," he said.

Hipple no longer considers himself a motivational speaker. His message now is one of education and identification. He speaks to coaches, and visits military bases as soldiers deal with the stresses of war. He's also authored a book, "Real Men Do Cry."

He gave some helpful tips for diagnosing stress.

"Look for change," he said. "Look for aches and pains and acting out, withdrawal and sleep problems. See if there are concentration problems. First go to a primary care physician and don't just say something is wrong. Tell them exactly what is happening."

What about the new guy?

Hipple, 51, who spent his whole career with the Lions (1980-89), is keeping a keen eye on Lions rookie QB Matthew Stafford , who recently completed three days of orientation in Allen Park. Hipple understands the strain and celebrity of being a Lions quarterback and offered advice to Stafford and the Lions.

"This might not be the answer but it is something the fans will come out for because it is a high-profile position," Hipple said. "I would like to see some infrastructure as far as an offensive and defensive line. He is not going to be the immediate answer. But in his case he can't do any worse. He might go out freewheeling and not worry about a thing and do quite well."

It's too soon to tell

Speaking of Stafford, people keep asking how he looked during the minicamp. He was OK. But I don't get too excited when someone is passing during seven-on-seven drills against other rookies, many of whom won't be in the league. Let's see how he looks when competing against veterans. Let's give him an incomplete.

Between you and me ...

People always complain about the cost of parking for Tigers games. Well, Lot M is a hidden jewel. It's $5 and sits across from Bookies Bar & Grille on the corner of W. Columbia Street and Cass Avenue. It is about a six-block walk to Comerica Park, but there are lots closer which are $10 and $15.

Be careful, however, because there is another "hidden jewel" in this lot. It is a 4-foot deep hole my son discovered. Thankfully, he didn't fall in.

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