On Monday, Utah State Aggies head football coach Blake Anderson publicly revealed for the first time that his son Cason, who died in February, died by suicide at the age of 21.
In conjunction with September being Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, the Utah State football program made a video nearly seven minutes long in which Anderson shared his family’s story and said this week’s game against UNLV will be dedicated to mental health awareness.
Anderson said he grew up as an athlete in a time when “As a man, you didn’t show that you were hurting. ... Unfortunately, I probably spent most of my life as a father and as a coach probably teaching my kids the same way.
“I don’t think my family really knew what mental health really was, never really talked about it a lot. It wasn’t a topic of conversation. It was just something that you dealt with.”
Anderson said that started to change when his first wife Wendy was diagnosed with cancer about six years ago. Wendy Anderson ultimately died in August 2019, “and grief set in in a way in our family that we’d never seen before,” Blake Anderson said in the video Monday.
Blake Anderson’s father died about six months after his wife, and then his only brother was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer about a year after that.
He said in the video that through the family’s faith in Jesus Christ, going to grief counseling and leaning on loved ones, things seemed to be going OK, until he got the phone call that Cason had taken his own life while living in Texas working with Anderson’s brother.
“Our lives forever changed that morning,” Anderson said. “A piece of me and a piece of our family’s gone and it will never come back. Questions are all we’re left with. Why didn’t I see it? How could I have helped more? What could I have done?”
Anderson said his son never let on that he was struggling, and said, “If you are hurting, if you are dealing with dark thoughts, if you are depressed, if you are dealing with grief so heavy that you don’t know what to do with it, please reach out.
“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.”
Anderson concluded by saying, “I pray that those that are listening, if you’re hurting, that you won’t wait.”