September 27, 2023

From suicide survivor to mental health advocate

Former Major League Baseball player Drew Robinson shares his story of hope and recovery.

By "healing out loud," Robinson hopes to encourage others to seek support when they need it.

In the spring of 2020, Drew Robinson seemed to have it all. He was starting his 11th season as a professional baseball player. He had a loving family and fiancée.

But on the inside, he was struggling. And one night, he attempted suicide.

Afterward, unsure why he was still alive, he asked himself if he still wanted to be. The answer was yes.

After receiving intensive physical and mental health care, he played baseball again the following season. He retired in July 2021 and became a full-time mental health advocate. His mission is to inspire people, especially professional athletes, to get the mental health support they need.

When Don Mordecai, MD, Kaiser Permanente’s national mental health leader, heard Robinson's story, he was impressed with his courage and authenticity — and with his commitment to helping others who need mental health support.

In 2021, an estimated 12.3 million American adults had serious thoughts of suicide. But suicide is preventable — and it’s important that we talk about it.

“Many people dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts are burdened with shame and secrecy. They often feel like they can’t talk about what they’re going through with anyone else,” said Dr. Mordecai. “Drew is sharing his story to help reduce the stigma related to suicide.”

Robinson answered questions about his experience and how people can help reduce the stigma related to mental health challenges.

What inspired you to become an official mental health advocate?

I really like the quote “I'm trying to heal out loud so others don’t die in silence.”

I don’t want anyone else in the world to feel the extreme despair I felt without being able to talk about it with someone. I share my experience hoping to help people reach out long before they get to such a dark place.

What do you want people to understand about your experience of surviving a suicide attempt?

I came to realize that I didn’t want my whole life to end. I felt miserable and hopeless, and I just wanted to put an end to my pain, not my life.

I think that’s true for a lot of people who attempt suicide. They just want their trauma, or their memories, or their hopelessness to end.

Since my attempt, I’ve still fallen into depressive episodes. One was so extreme that a big part of me wanted to try again. But I leaned on the realization that however uncomfortable I may be in my current phase of life I know that the pain I’m in isn’t my whole life.

I’ve learned to trust the future and to have faith that when things look dark, they won’t always be that way.

What stopped you from reaching out for help?

That's one of the more puzzling parts of my story. I actually did reach out for help. I was talking to a therapist before the 2020 baseball season. And during spring training I had sessions with our team’s sports psychologist.

I knew I was struggling. And while I was honest enough to admit I was doing pretty badly, I never admitted just how bad it was. I didn’t have the guts to come out and say that I was seriously considering suicide.

I was doing everything I could without asking for what I really needed. That’s the part I regret the most. That’s why it makes me so proud and so happy now when I see people willing to be totally honest and ask for the help they need.

What can we do to help reduce the stigma around mental health challenges?

man holding dog

Robinson with his therapy dog, Ellie. “She’s my natural antidepressant,” he said. “She goes everywhere with me.”

I think a lot of the stigma starts with a lack of empathy. I think we all lack empathy at times. But even if we don’t understand what someone else is going through, that doesn't mean it’s okay for us to judge them for what they’re feeling.

Listening is so important when it comes to mental health challenges. Most of the time people are just trying to be heard and accepted. They just need some guidance and some love to help them get to a more stable place.

What do you do to prioritize your mental health and self-care?

I believe passionately in preventive work when it comes to mental health. I’ve committed to regular therapy sessions. And I’ve gone through some phases where I had a pretty intensive therapy regimen. I also supplement therapy with regular talks with family members, friends, or coaches that I trust.

Working out, eating well, and prioritizing sleep have also been really important for me. I also journal regularly.

Self-acceptance, self-belief, and self-love are all crucial. I try to be a little bit more accepting of myself. I understand that I'm not going to be at 100% every day, and that’s totally OK.

How to get the mental health help you need

“Whether you’re thinking about suicide or are concerned about someone else, Drew’s story shows the importance of talking about it,” said Dr. Mordecai. “If someone confides in you, first just listen. Then, encourage them to seek help.”

Help and resources are available.

Suicide hotline

If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, call or text the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. A chat option also is available at You’ll be connected directly to a crisis-trained counselor. Support is available 24/7. It’s free and confidential.

Mental health emergency

If you or someone you know needs immediate emergency medical services for a mental health crisis, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.

Mental health care

Kaiser Permanente members can get connected to care at