Less than 24 hours removed from an emotional opening-night victory, Raiders defensive tackle Solomon Thomas asked a group of teenagers to raise their hands if they felt like they knew a lot about mental health.
The majority did.
“That’s way more than I knew growing up, and that’s one of the reasons I’m speaking now,” he said. “When I was growing up, when I was a kid, when I was going through things, all these feelings, I didn’t know how to talk about them. And I want to make sure that you all know how to talk about them.”
Thomas spoke to the students — members of the Batteries Included program, an initiative created to ensure teenagers have adequate resources to thrive and prepare for college — during a Tuesday event organized by the city of Las Vegas at City Hall.
The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians presented $10,000 checks to each of the organizations present at the event: The Mayor’s Fund for the City of Las Vegas, The Defensive Line Foundation, Born This Way Foundation and Hope Means Nevada.
“It is good to feel good,” Mayor Carolyn Goodman said. “And it starts with each of us just accepting the resources that are available and knowing that we genuinely care. Your city loves you and wants to see that everybody feels good about themselves.”
Thomas later sat down for a discussion with Dr. Sheldon Jacobs, a psychologist and board member of Hope Means Nevada. Jacobs and Thomas discussed the importance of having these types of conversations about mental health, especially for children.
“There is a stigma as it pertains to mental health,” Jacobs said afterward. “A lot of people don’t want to come out and talk about mental health. They’re afraid they’re going to be shamed for it, because mental health is still not, from the societal perspective, it’s not really acceptable.”
Later, the duo answered questions from the children in attendance and helped facilitate an activity in which the students wrote letters to anonymous peers. The message: It’s OK not to be OK.
Thomas founded The Defensive Line Foundation after his older sister, Ella, died by suicide in 2018. The foundation aims to promote partnerships and increase education about mental health and suicide prevention.
On Tuesday, he spoke about his own struggles with anxiety and depression, encouraging the audience members to seek help if they need it and be honest about their feelings.
“Going through the pandemic last year, there’s just so much you’ve had to go through that none of us have ever had to go through,” he said. “So it’s just so important that you guys really dive into your mental health.”
And then he signed some autographs.