Editor’s note • If you or people you know are at risk of self-harm, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24-hour support by dialing 988, or 1-800-273-8255.
The Utah State football team is dedicating its next game, a home matchup against UNLV, to mental health awareness. The reason why: its head coach continues to endure significant grief and loss in his life, and he feels his story is one that can set an example.
In a video shared by the USU football team, Blake Anderson revealed his 21-year-old son Cason died by suicide on Feb. 28. It’s the first time the coach has revealed the cause of his son’s death and how it impacted his family.
“Our lives forever changed that morning,” Anderson said. “A piece of me and piece of our family is gone and will never come back.”
Anderson urged anyone struggling to “reach out” for help. The coach said several USU players and staff members will share testimonials throughout the week about their mental health journeys — and he thought it appropriate to start with his own.
Anderson said he received a call from his brother, Brian, saying his son did not show up for work that day and no one could find him. In the days prior, Cason seemed normal, hanging out with friends and laughing with his father.
Anderson questioned why he didn’t see his son’s pain, how he could’ve helped his son more. His son did not communicate his feelings to anyone in the family, Anderson said, and they didn’t see any warning signs. His son always said he was OK.
That’s the point in the video where Anderson called people to action.
“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 said. “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.”
Anderson’s family has dealt with grief in recent years. His first wife, Wendy, was diagnosed with “a very rare and aggressive form of breast cancer” six years ago.
“My wife ultimately lost that battle,” Anderson said. “Grief set in a way, in our family, that we’ve never seen before. We didn’t really know what to do with it.”
Anderson said his family leaned on his faith and those around them to cope and get through his wife’s death. His father died six months later, and his only brother, Brian, was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer a year after that.