LOGAN, Utah, Sept. 20, 2022 (Gephardt Daily) — Utah State University football coach Blake Anderson set aside the X’s and O’s and let down his guard to share a personal message about the Aggies’ upcoming Mental Health Awareness game.
In a candid and emotional video posted Monday on social media, Anderson speaks about his family’s mental health struggles and the Feb. 28 death of his son, Cason, revealing the 21-year-old took his own life.
“Our lives forever changed that morning. A piece of me and a piece our family’s gone and will never come back,” he says. “Questions are all we’re left with: Why didn’t I see it? How can I help more? What could I have done?
“I mean, he never let any of us know. There were no red flags. There were no warning signs. He always made sure to tell you that he was OK.”
— USU Football (@USUFootball) September 19, 2022
Utah State is hoping to educate and change the narrative about mental health with its inaugural Mental Health Awareness game during Saturday’s Mountain West Conference opener against UNLV. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. at USU’s Maverik Stadium.
The Aggies will wear a green ribbon on their helmets against UNLV to support mental health awareness.
“If you are hurting, if you are dealing with dark thoughts, if you are depressed, if you’re dealing with grief so heavy that you don’t know what to do with it, please reach out,” Anderson says. “There are people around you that want to help you. There are people that God has put in your life that want to carry your burden. They would much rather carry your burden than carry your coffin.”
Cason had been living in Texas and working with Anderson’s brother at the time of his death, the USU coach says. He received a phone call from his brother, who reported Cason had not shown up for work.
“Somewhere in the middle of the night after everybody was gone, Cason went to a place that was so dark that he didn’t want to do it anymore. He didn’t want to be here in the morning and took his own life,” Anderson says.
USU is partnering with “I’m Changing the Narrative” author and founder Rachel Baribeau, who will attend the Mental Health Awareness game. Baribeau says her organization’s mission is to “promote positive mental health and good love for yourself and others.”
“Rachel’s energy and perspective is so uplifting and amazing,” Anderson said in a news release. “She has become a very close friend of mine over the past 10 years, as we both battled through similar losses in our lives. Rachel continues to smile, lean on her faith, and pour herself into absolutely everyone she comes into contact with, making an enormous lasting impact that is life changing with each and every encounter.”
Anderson previously lost his wife, Wendy, to breast cancer in 2019, followed by the death of his father about six months later. The loss took a toll on the family’s mental health, he says.
“Mental health matters,” Anderson says. “I encourage you, if you or someone you know are struggling, step up, speak out and do everything you can to help them find the resources they need. Staying silent is too costly.”
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, help is available 24 hours a day at the Suicide and Crisis Hotline. Call 988 for free, confidential support.