Utah State coach Blake Anderson released a video Monday announcing that he and the Aggies program are dedicating this week’s game against UNLV to raising awareness for mental health. The efforts will include various messaging on the program’s social media accounts, offering information on resources for those in need and testimonials from players and staff about their own experiences and struggles with mental health.
Speaking into camera, Anderson began the round of testimonials by sharing the story of his son, Cason, who died by suicide in February.
“Somewhere in the middle of the night when everyone was gone, Cason went to a place which was so dark, he didn’t want to do it anymore,” Anderson said. “He didn’t want to be here anymore … Our lives forever changed that morning. A piece of me, a piece of our family is gone, and it will never come back.”
Anderson, 53, said that he and his family had never seen any indication that Cason had been struggling, and have been dealing with questions about why and how this could have happened ever since.
“He never let any of us know,” Anderson said. “There were no red flags. There were no warning signs. He always made sure to tell you he was OK. If you are hurting, if you are dealing with dark thoughts, if you’re depressed, if you’re dealing with grief so heavy that you don’t know what to do with it: Please, reach out.”
Anderson and his family have endured tragedy before. Anderson’s first wife, Wendy, was diagnosed with breast cancer while he was at Arkansas State, and she died in 2019. His father died about six months after Wendy’s death, and his brother was diagnosed with colon cancer about a year later.
Anderson noted that a willingness to discuss mental health struggles has not been common for people of his generation. His hope is that, by shining a light on the issue, Utah State can help change the stigma around it.
“I grew up in an era and a time where, as a man, you didn’t show that you were hurting. You didn’t show that you had pain. You didn’t cry. It was the, ‘Get up, dust yourself off, tape it up, get back to work’ kind of mentality,” Anderson said. “Unfortunately, I probably spent most of my life as a father and as a coach probably teaching my kids the same way. …
“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. Mental health matters. I encourage you, if you or someone you know is hurting, step up, speak out and do everything you can to help them find the resources they need. Staying silent is too costly.”
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