SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - Many questions remain after the death of local legend Junior Seau. One of the biggest questions after his suicide is, how was Junior able to hide his inner struggle from everyone?
Junior Seau's big smile hid his pain so well. Even his own mom had no idea how badly he was hurting until his suicide.
"One in 5 people at some time in their life suffers from anxiety or depression, and only a very small minority ever seek treatment," Dr. Michael Lardon said.
Lardon specializes in sports psychiatry, and has seen it many times before -- athletes struggling after the cheering stops.
"And then all of a sudden they're batting average dips or rip an ACL and career's over and where are they? They're left to rot in a vacuum," Lardon said.
Lardon would like to see more education in sports to help athletes deal with the end of a career. But most of all he hopes people understand there's no shame in saying you need help.
"There is a way out of suffering. Mental illness, depression are not that different from diabetes. Where your pancreas doesn't make insulin, in depression there are areas of your brain that aren't making enough serotonin," he said.
Without question there was a mystique about Junior. So strong on the football field and so generous off it, there was never a hint that everything wasn't perfect.
"You know that's the thing about mental illness. It's not something we see like a broken leg," Lardon said.
But Lardon does believe there's much less stigma seeking help today than even just a few years ago, and he has a growing list of professional athletes -- including NFL players -- as clients to prove it.
I think the acceptance is better. We're moving in the right direction and maybe this tragedy with Junior can advance people be more educated about something so important and vital," he said.
Lardon also says it's hard to imagine that all the hard hits Seau took to his head didn't damage his brain, which also could have played a factor in his depression.