DANIEL ADONGO; A STUDY INTO MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS

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Sometime last year Kenyans were shocked when pictures of a rugged and dirty Daniel Adongo went viral on social media. Check out this article out in case you missed it.

Netizens were clearly taken aback by his current condition. And a lot was said and written about it. Turns out a friend of mine went out researching on the possible cause of Daniel’s crises. And I thought you might also like this perspective.

Daniel Adongo the man


Daniel Adongo. The man is a perfect definition of rags to riches & fame, then back to rags again. Only this time, it was back to rags with a thud. His story reads like a tragi-comedy. Young, suave, handsome, ambitious and driven. He had a body that was the envy of every man and, the object of lust for every woman. An accomplished sportsman, he was also very smart in the head. You could tell just from how he spoke in interviews.

Because of his drive and ambition, he caught the eye of several teams in and out of the country. Agents came knocking at his door with offers and contracts. He was going places. His first stint was in South Africa. Played ball. Entertained fans. Pushed himself even more and caught the eye of the NFL. An NFL (Colts I think) team saw something in him that they needed. And for Daniel, that was an offer of a lifetime that he couldn’t refuse. Playing in the Superbowl? Who’d turn down such an offer? It was a no-brainer. He took it up immediately.

He signs with the NFL team, and moves to America. The land of making the impossible possible. Back home, people were elated that homeboy was raising the Kenyan flag high. But after playing for a season or two, stories began surfacing of domestic violence and run-ins with the authorities. The girl he’d been living with had called the police on him a couple of times on assault claims. And the NFL club he was with had begun disassociating themselves with him. Then finally they cancelled his contract.

He couldn’t get any place to play in any team because of his general behavior; Anti-social. Disturbing. Violent. I believe the next thing anyone came to hear of Adongo was the degenerate he’d become. From a ripped, handsome muscleman with sporty ambitions and breaking barriers, to a chain-smoking, vulgarity-spitting person, with dyed hair and piercings allover his face and nose. Daniel seemed not to care cussing out even his own mother using imprintable epithets. Looked disheveled. Lost. Haggard. And sinking further into the abyss.

At first I thought, could be his change of fortunes drove him to these ends. I tried to think on him. Several times when his current status went viral, I thought about him. I empathised. I asked myself hard questions without answers. Then, I happened upon material that would somewhat help me try to fit together the pieces to the puzzle of his life and sudden decline. It is a book written by Steve Fainaru (a Pulitzer prize winning journalist) and his brother Mark Fainaru-Wada. Title of the book; League of Denials..

In it, the brothers detail meticulously, a mental health crisis with NFL players that the NFL has worked very hard to dispel and dismiss. American football is arguably the greatest sporting event in America. No matter how you look at it, it is arguably the greatest sporting event that side of the world. Americans love it and glory in it. Kids dream and want to play in the NFL league. The violence that accompanies the game makes it a very appealing an entertainment pastime.

Mental health crisis

It is very violent a sporting event if you think about it or watch it. The tackles are hard and brutal. In general, the very essence of the game is the violence inherent in it. No one glamourised the hard tackles and the violence more than the Pittsburg “Steelers” team, bouyed by their fans who worship the team. It has been said that Pittsburg people are a mentally tough, and hard-driven people. The game is to them a perfect picture of how hard one should push in life. How their way of life is essentially..

But in that violence, there’s a mental health crisis that’s brewed since the 90s. The crisis was brought to the fore by an unknown albeit well educated Neuropathologist from Nigeria called Dr. Bennet Omalu. He reports to work one day at his Pittsburg office and there, he finds colleagues elated. Sort of. When he enquires about what’s happening, he’s told that he’s supposed to conduct a postmortem on the body of a local Pittsburg hero, “Iron Mike” Webster. Omalu isn’t a football fan and so he didn’t know what all that buzz with Webster was about.

He gets to conducting the postmortem anyway. Beginning with the feet (they had cracks and crevices that Mike used duck tape to hold together), to the head (which looked like that of an octogenarian). Webster died at 50, 11 years after his retirement, but he looked much older according to Dr. Omalu. He died from an overdose. At that time, he’d lost his family and all resources. Prior to losing his family, exhausting their savings and basically losing everything, he’d become very impatient, of a short temper and increasingly abusive. (Does that strike a chord?)

Dr. Omalu opened Mike’s skull and got to his brain. He was expecting to see a brain with the signs of Alzheimer’s or some other mental affliction. To his surprise, he sees that the brain looks normal. He gets curious and says he wants to study that brain alittle more. And on his studies, upon dissecting the brain, he finds protein tar surrounding distinctive areas of the brain and “boom” he has an explanation as to Mike’s cause of degenerative behavior that led to his death; CTE..

CTE is short for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. It is a progressive neuro-degenerative disease whose end stage leaves tar protein deposition in distinctive areas of the brain, in distinctive locations and that separates the disease from any other like Alzheimer’s or dementia. Football players, the NFL ones, are at a major risk because of the pounding involved much of which is done with their heads. The trauma caused by the pounding on the brain makes them at risk of getting CTE.

Studies have shown that many NFL players develop the disease sooner or later. It’s characterised by agitation, forgetfulness, self-destructive behavior and generally depression then ultimately death. There have been studies done since by Neurologists that suggest that NFL players are at risk and most will be victims of the degenerative disease. Now, I am not a scientist but I’m fascinated by science. So, allow me to stop there on the science and come back to where we begun.

Maybe…

Daniel Adongo; could the man have caught CTE quicker than he could reach the apex of his career? To me, and going by what I’ve read about CTE, his behavior corresponds with many others’ whose lives were cut short by the disease. You see, I believe depression doesn’t kill someone. There’s what brought about someone to that state. That’s what killed them. That’s what I know. And that’s what I believe. That’s why counselling psychologists and psychiatrists ask about triggers, I guess. Simply because if you know a cause, you can get to the cure. Ama?

Seeing as CTE is a degenerative disease, meaning one gets only worse (it’s hard to heal the brain once it’s wounded), we’ll never know what actually may have driven Adongo down the abyss until, unfortunately and God forbid, he’s dead. Dead and studies done on his brain. Otherwise, it’s easy to look at the violence he has espoused and the vain character he’s become and judge him harshly, never quite understanding what drove him to the depths.

While he once made men envious, the girls drool and fans go wild, Daniel Adongo is now a very lonely man, standing by the side of the road, in the dark of the night, in the pouring rain. With little hope of escape or none at all.

That’s why compassion, kindness and empathy should be our daily companions to others’ plight especially in our harsh judgment of others.

(Story written by Gathirwa Kiwarie via Wanjiru Mbaru but references are made to the book League of Denials by the Fainaru brothers, Steve and Mark)

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Anonymous

There’s actually a movie about that Doctor Bennet…its called “concussion ” will smith plays the Doctor part…

Maina

Very interesting pov

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