EDUCATION

High 5: How Student Athletes Are Tackling Suicide By Being Their Brothers’ Keepers

Oct 23, 2019, 10:52 AM

PLEASANT GROVE, Utah – The weight room at Pleasant Grove High School is a place where strength is on display — both mentally and physically.

For the football team, lifting weights is intrinsic. However, it’s the weight you don’t see that these boys carry every day.

“It seems like every year a kid commits suicide, and that just sucks,” said student athlete and team captain Caleb Campbell.

In spring of 2019, that Pleasant Grove student was Kaden Tressler. He was new to the school and wanted to play football, but he felt like he didn’t quite fit in.

“It makes me feel personally that I could have done something,” Campbell said. “You feel a bit of guilt about it and it’s just heartbreaking.”

Not wanting another student to ever feel left out, Campbell had an idea. At the beginning of the season, he texted his team a scripture from the Old Testament. The idea was for each team member to be his brother’s keeper.

“There are 130 kids that play football,” he said. “It would make sense that there is a kid in every class, so if everyone would just look out for their classmates, then it would really help, I think, to make everyone feel more loved and included at our school.”

Head football coach Mark Wootton said it’s easy to take care of your teammates, but he saw Campbell wanted to do more.

“He wanted to take it to a different level,” he said, “and get the kids to be aware of the kids in their class if they see someone struggling.”

Campbell said his coaches and teammates embraced his “brother’s keeper” idea.

“I sit and watch people and see how they act,” said student athlete Matthew Smith. “When I see something off, I can tell and I’ll go up to them and say: ‘You OK? You need anything? I’ve got your back. I’m here for you.'”

Campbell also printed small “BK” stickers, and students have them on their phones and their car windows, as well as other prime locations.

“We would put it on the back of our helmets,” Campbell said. “That way everybody on our team would know we’ve got your back, and somebody has yours.”

His idea is not only bringing the Pleasant Grove High School student body together at a time when teens often struggle, but it’s also creating hope.

“It shows that there are young people that are so good and so strong,” Wootton said. “It gives me hope – and other people hope – that there are young people out there that are really, really amazing people.”

If you know of someone who’s making a different in the community, nominate them for a High 5 by emailing high5@ksl.com.

SUICIDE PREVENTION RESOURCES

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or exhibiting warning signs, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Additional Crisis Hotlines

  • Utah County Crisis Line: 801-226-4433
  • Salt Lake County/UNI Crisis Line: 801-587-3000
  • Wasatch Mental Health Crisis Line: 801-373-7393
  • National Suicide Prevention Crisis Text Line: Text “HOME” to 741-741
  • Trevor Project Hotline for LGBTQ teens: 1-866-488-7386
  • University Of Utah Crisis Interventional Crisis Line: 801-587-300

Online resources

In an emergency

  • Call 911
  • Go to the emergency room
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High 5: How Student Athletes Are Tackling Suicide By Being Their Brothers’ Keepers