High school track team races for suicide awareness after losing a former teammate
PROVO, Utah — More than a thousand athletes gathered at their first big high school track meet of the season, with one team running to honor a former teammate on Saturday.
Jackson Merrill was up all night thinking about it.
“It is incredible. There are so many people here,” Merrill expressed. “This whole week, I have been a little jittery, like, ‘oh, what is going to happen? I hope I do good.'”
Fellow competitors and teammates at Brigham Young University’s Smith Fieldhouse felt the same way. However, only those on Merrill’s team also felt something that is tougher to explain.
His former GoldMedal Athletics teammate, Treven Brazier, took his own life just a couple of weeks ago. He was 20 years old.
“I found out, my dad woke me up, and as I woke up way early, he was like, ‘hey, did you hear what happened?’ It was hard. It was really hard. I was not expecting it,” Merrill said.
To honor Brazier, the guys on the GoldMedal Athletics team decided to run wearing yellow arm sleeves, which is what Brazier used to run in.
“It was so he could see himself in the videos, like, to see where he was at and what he needs to do,” said Jonathan Pugmire, who was close friends with Brazier.
The girls on the team wore yellow ribbons in their hair in his honor.
“I think it really just shows how much we care for our team,” said Brooklyn Sturdivant.
Even though Brazier graduated high school and was running in college, his teammates say he will always be a member of this team. So, they felt like they had to run for him.
“It’s like, one of the most emotional races I have had just because we are running in place for him. We are running in his honor. It is really cool,” said Kale Pontius.
GoldMedal Athletics coach Sean Maye said he is proud of how close his athletes have come together.
“This is the first athlete we have ever lost to something like this. We were devastated,” said Coach Maye. “But I just told the kids we have got to be strong, the older kids, and we will be okay.”
Brilee Pontius, a former teammate of Brazier’s and now runs for BYU, wore a similar yellow ribbon in her hair Saturday for a track meet in Colorado.
“I made ribbons for all the girls on the team,” she said.
Everyone who knew Brazier, who was known as “T-Ball,” has stories of how much he meant to them.
“He was such an inspiration and was such a leader on the team,” Merrill said. “He was awesome and he was awesome for the team. We’ll all miss him.”
Suicide prevention resources
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or exhibiting warning signs, call, text, or chat the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 which is answered 24/7/365 by crisis counselors at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute. All calls to legacy crisis hotlines, including the old National Suicide Prevention hotline, 1-800-273-8255, will also connect to a crisis care worker at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute as well.
- SafeUT: Parents, students, and educators can connect with a licensed crisis counselor through chat by downloading the SafeUT app or by calling 833-3SAFEUT (833-372-3388)
- SafeUT Frontline: First responders, including firefighters, law enforcement, EMS, and healthcare professionals can chat with a licensed crisis counselor at no cost 24/7/365 by downloading the SafeUT Frontline app.
- SafeUTNG: Members of the National Guard can chat with a licensed crisis counselor at no cost 24/7/365 by downloading the SafeUTNG app.
- Utah Warm Line: For non-crisis situations, when you need a listening ear as you heal and recover from a personal struggle, call 1-833 SPEAKUT 8:00 a.m.-11:00 p.m., 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
- The Huntsman Mental Health Institute offers a wide variety of programs and services including suicide prevention and crisis services, hospital treatment, therapy & medication management, substance Use & addiction recovery, child & teen programs, and maternal mental health services including birth trauma, pregnancy loss, infertility, and perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.
- LiveOnUtah.org is a statewide effort to prevent suicide by promoting education, providing resources, and changing Utah’s culture around suicide and mental health. They offer resources for faith based groups, LGBTQ+, youth, employers, firearm suicide prevention, and crisis and treatment options.
Other community-based resources
- NAMI Utah provides education, support and advocacy for individuals and families impacted by mental illness.
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention offers prevention programs, public education, support for loss survivors, and fundraising for research.
- Encircle Utah: LGBTQ+ family and youth resource center.
- Utah Pride Center empowers Utah’s diverse LGBTQ+ community.
- The Trevor Project: LGBTQ teen resource center.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Mental Health
- Latino Behavioral Health Services
- Center for Workplace Mental Health offers suicide prevention and response for employers.
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