Stigma kills.

Robert Enke, the beloved goalkeeper for the German national soccer team, stepped in front of a train on Tuesday.  Enke, 32, was at the height of his career – expected to be the German team’s goalkeeper  in the 2010 World Cup. He and his wife Teresa had adopted a daughter, Leila, earlier this year. Leila is 18 months old. Three years ago the couple’s 2-year-daughter, Lara, died of a heart condition.

Enke had battled battled depression for six years but feared that if his depression became public they would lose Leila, his widow said.

“We had Lara; we have Leila. I always wanted to help him to get through it,” she told reporters. “He didn’t want it to come out because of fear. He was scared of losing Leila.”

Sit down, close your eyes and imagine – if you can – what it would feel like if you suffered from a reviled illness and believed that your child would be taken from you if word of your illness got out. People with cancer or heart disease or diabetes do not have these worries. They can focus on getting well. But not people with mental illnesses. Those of us with mental illness have to worry about losing our friends, family and job – not to mention insurance – if our alcoholism, depression, bipolar or schizophrenia etc. becomes public.

Regardless of whether you are a soccer fan, we can honor Enke’s memory by speaking up and out. Loud. Anytime you hear anyone poke fun at the mentally ill, doubt their suffering or joke about their medication, chime in, interrupt and defend Enke’s despair. It was horribly real. Make a statement when you see an antidepressant ad on television, listen to Nirvana or read about Anna Nicole. The stigma is not going to go away on its own.

Unfortunately Enke believed that he had to choose between getting well and losing his daughter or staying sick and keeping his family together. Sadly, he got it backward. By staying sick his daughter lost her father.

God rest your soul Robert Enke.