Note to Reporters: A photo of Woody Paige, a brief interview with Paige and a copy of his September 2010 column are available with the news release at http://www.news.colostate.edu.
Denver Post sports columnist Woody Paige just wanted to answer the question “Why?” for his readers.
Why did Kenny McKinley, a Denver Broncos player with everything going for him, commit suicide? Paige himself understood, as he wrote in his Sept. 23, 2010, column, because he too had contemplated suicide before friends stepped in to help.
The article struck the hearts of Colorado State University psychology researchers in the Colorado Injury Control Research Center and Jarrod Hindman, program director for the State of Colorado’s Office of Suicide Prevention, who co-sponsor the “Bridging the Divide: Suicide Awareness and Prevention Summit.” They will honor Paige at 3 p.m. today at Colorado State with the 2011 Suicide Prevention Coalition of Colorado Media Award.
“Woody’s willingness to share one of his darkest, likely most troubling and raw personal experiences was incredibly powerful,” Hindman said. “His story was spot-on in describing what suicidal individuals may be feeling and does a beautiful job of detailing the process of saving a life – people cared, took action and were there, and Woody is alive today partially because of that. Incredible!
“His article is the best suicide prevention piece I’ve read in more than five years of working in suicide prevention,” Hindman said. “And that includes articles from psychologists, physicians and mental and public health professionals working in the field of suicide prevention.”
Within days of the column’s publication, Paige received more than 35,000 emails and voice mails, some from suicidal people. He is doing his best to respond to all of them over the past nine months despite the emotional journey, Paige said.
“I sat there for two days crying because the responses were so incredible,” he said. “It was about two dozen who were contemplating suicide and decided to reach out for help. And that’s when it hit me – if they were telling the truth, maybe the column did save some lives.”
Last week, Paige traveled to New York City to accept the Public Education Award from the national American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
“I find out more at these meetings and these events about suicide. It’s become my third major charitable activity along with diabetes and cancer,” said Paige, who learned he was depressed after a diabetes diagnosis. “It’s been very educational for me.”
Much of his 50-year career has been spent at the Denver Post. A native of Memphis, Paige has also worked for the Whitehaven Press, Knoxville Journal, Memphis Commercial Appeal and the Rocky Mountain News.
He is the recipient of more than 100 local, state and national media awards for column writing and sports stories, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee. He is a Baseball Hall of Fame and ESPY Award voter.
Paige is an ESPN “Around the Horn” panelist and regular contributor to ESPN Classic’s Emmy Award winning SportsCentury series.