LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- After Monday night’s big win, a Las Vegas Raiders player spent Tuesday night at Las Vegas City Hall meeting with the mayor and sitting down with students from across the city to discuss teen mental health.
After his own struggles with mental health and a loss that forever changed his life, defensive lineman Solomon Thomas has dedicated his life to saving other young people.
“When I was growing up, when I was a kid, when I was going through things, I had all these feelings. I didn’t know how to talk about them,” Thomas said.
Now an NFL star, Thomas told the students he was overweight as a kid and moved around a lot.
“I was made fun of a little bit. I was called names …. Another thing growing up that impacted my mental health was being black in mostly white areas. I felt like I wasn’t valued, or I wasn’t worthy,” Thomas said.
Thomas said he wants to end the stigma surrounding mental health and open doors for kids to feel free to talk about how they feel.
Even when he became a football star in high school, Thomas said he still had anxiety. On Jan. 23, 2018, he learned mental health struggles can become deadly when his sister Ella died by suicide.
“My sister was best friend. She was everything to me. She was a ball of energy. She was feisty. She had this beautiful laugh, it was just infectious,” Thomas said.
“When it comes to youth between the ages of 12 and 19, suicide is the number one leading cause of death,” said Dr. Sheldon A. Jacobs, a psychologist and board member of Hope Means Nevada, an organization formed during the pandemic to help students with mental health struggles.
“Nevada, we rank second when it comes to our prevalence rate for our youth to have mental health issues … When one youth takes their life, another 100-200 youths attempt to take their lives,” Dr. Jacobs said at the talk. “The more conversations that we have around suicide, the more we open up the doors for hope and for help."
Thomas said he started therapy after the death of his sister and started a foundation called the Defensive Line, promoting mental health awareness in communities of color. Thomas said every game he plays, every battle he faces is fought in memory of Ella.
At Tuesday’s forum, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians donated $40,000 to local mental health organizations including the Defensive Line.