Utah State University hosts panel on suicide prevention for student-athletes
Oct 24, 2023, 9:11 AM | Updated: 9:14 am
LOGAN — The message at Utah State University during a suicide prevention workshop Monday night emphasized the importance of seeking help. The panel follows a deeply personal message from football coach Blake Anderson, who shared his experience with grief after his son died by suicide in February 2022.
Anderson says since his story aired on Sept. 30 on ESPN’s GameDay, he’s received thousands of messages expressing gratitude for his openness.
“From support to, you know, I needed it,” Anderson told KSL TV. “It reached me at a time that I really needed to hear it, it gave me the courage to speak up.”
Participants in the mental health awareness campaign include Anderson, Intermountain Health and The Defensive Line – a foundation initiated by Martha and Chris Thomas, along with their son, Soloman, who is a defensive tackle for the New York Jets. Their daughter and sister, Ella, died by suicide in 2018.
“We wanted to do something for leaders of young people to understand the warning signs and ways they can help people who are in crisis,” Martha Thomas said.
The collective goal is to normalize discussions around mental health and reduce the stigma associated with it. Both the Thomas family and Anderson stress the significance of recognizing warning signs and fostering and environment where individuals comfortable asking for help. By openly sharing their stories, they aim to create a positive and supportive atmosphere.
“I felt like that if I was going to talk to my players about being vulnerable, and be willing to speak, that they needed to see me do the same with my grief and my pain or what I’m struggling with, but also let them know that it’s okay to ask for help,” Anderson said. And his team trusts him.
“By him opening up with his story, as unfortunate as has happened to him, it’s created a positive and comforting environment,” said USU punter Stephen Kotsanlee.
The open dialogue is encouraging to Anderson who is finding purpose in the pain.
“And for me, it’s been therapeutic,” Anderson said. “So it’s a way for me to see that even in the midst of broken that, that people can find hope.”
You can watch the GameDay story on ESPN here.
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 (833-372-33888)
- 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.