Editor’s Note: As a warning, this story includes themes about suicide that may be triggering to some readers. If you are in crisis please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255.
Nevada football will add a ribbon and “you are not alone” stickers to their helmets in honor of National Suide Awareness month. The team is showing their solidarity after hearing fifth year defensive back Bentlee Sanders’ story.
Bentlee Sanders lost his oldest sister to suicide. His story sparked head coach Jay Norvell to take action and bring attention to suicide awareness.
“Bentlee Sanders talked to the team about having a sister that he lost to suicide,” Norvell said. “It’s a very emotional and personal story. He asked me and our team if we would participate. September is National Suicice Awareness month, and we thought it would be great to bring some attention to that.”
The purple and turquoise ribbon is for suicide awareness. All players will have that symbol and a quote on their helmets for the month of September.
As a head coach, Norvell has a close connection to each and every player. He has heard stories not only from Sanders, but many other athletes.
“For people that are struggling, I can’t tell you as a head coach, how many kids have sat in my office and talked about thinking about taking their life,” Norvell said. “It’s very humbling. A lot of people are struggling out there, and we just want them to know that you are not alone.”
Novell said, suicide prevention month is not something he wants to bypass.
“I think it’s really important,” Norvell said. “We deal with so many college kids and young kids going through issues. I just think it’s good for everybody to realize that and recognize that this month.”
Senior defensive back JoJuan Claiborne is a close friend and teammate of Sanders’.
“Bentlee is a really good teammate,” Claiborne said. “I actually ran with him this week up until right before the game. He’s a really good dude.”
The act of bringing awareness to suicide had Claiborne discuss the mental health of male athletes, too.
“I just think overall mental health, of male in particular, needs kind of like a stronger, just more focus,” Claiborne said. “A lot of times, definitely as a football player, you get told to suck it up. This is a really cool thing that we are doing to bring to mental health and the game of sports and definitely for Bentlee, I know it means a lot to him.”
Having a way to deal with mental health and suicide prevention is crucial to your well being. Asking counselors or professionals is a common technique.
“I’m someone that looks into faith,” Claiborne said. “I’m a Christian. I do a lot of [Fellow Christian Athletes] meetings. I turn to counseling, I’ve been to counseling before. You do have to find different outlets to be able to move on to the next day in a sense.”
Football players, as well as all other athletes, usually have a standard they are known by. Claiborne says that there is more to it than just being an athlete.
“A lot of people just see us as players playing the game of football, but it’s a lot more that goes into it,” Claiborne said.
Kelsey Middleton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @kelsmiddleunr