Sharing stories about personal issues is tough, yet two NFL football greats, Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys and Solomon Thomas of the New York Jets, who are tough on the gridiron, told their stories at Grant Halliburton Foundation’s 14th annual Beacon of Hope Community Luncheon. The fundraising luncheon, held on March 7 at the Omni Dallas Hotel, supports Grant Halliburton Foundation’s work providing education, resources and support for children, teen and young adult mental health and suicide prevention in North Texas. Both young men are on a mission to raise awareness about mental health and suicide through their foundations off the field.
As guests arrived, they enjoyed several mental health activities, viewed and purchased raffle packages, enjoyed the champagne wall and listened to DJ Lucy Wrubel playing lively music.
Steve Noviello of FOX 4 News, served as the master of ceremonies. The Conly Family- Jeanie and Bert Conly and their children, Lindsey and Aaron Berg, Mark Briscoe, and Kendall and Luke Cagle—were the luncheon chairs, with Barb Farmer as the founding luncheon chair. Dr. Clayton Oliphant, senior pastor of First United Methodist in Richardson, gave the invocation.
“We are grateful to all of you for being a part of the largest gathering of any event in our 17-year history—700 strong—all here to support adolescent mental health,” Kevin Hall, Grant Halliburton Foundation president, said. “One thing has not changed—and that is the ever-growing need to support young people with their mental health. I wish I could stand up here and tell you that the mental health crisis is trending in a positive direction, but the hard truth is, the crisis continues to grow. The challenges before us are massive.”
Vanita Halliburton, Grant Halliburton Foundation co-founder and executive chairwoman, spoke about the organization she co-founded after losing her son Grant to suicide 17 years ago and the state of mental health in young people.
“The Centers for Disease Control reports that:
· suicide is still the second-leading cause of death for youth ages 10 to 14 and the third-leading cause of death for those ages 15 to 24.
· One in eight Texas high school students report they have attempted suicide in the past 12 months (twice the national average).
· In Texas, on average we lose one teen to suicide every day; in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, we lose two per week.”
“GHF was meant to be a wellspring of information, guidance, resources and encouragement for those engaged in the fight for someone’s mental health—for themselves or for someone they care about,” she added.
“Those are sobering statistics…but this is why we exist. Our Foundation will never stop working to promote better mental health and help prevent suicide among our children and youth. Grant Halliburton Foundation is waging a strong and winning fight against the stigma around mental health. One thing we know for sure: brought out of the shadows and into the light, stigma quickly dies.”
Noviello introduced Andy Adler, CBS 11 Sports Anchor and Children’s Rights Activist. Adler introduced and interviewed Prescott and Thomas. She remarked, “Dak and Solomon have many gifts—talent, intelligence and success. They’ve also both suffered great loss and with that comes a platform to communicate about mental health and suicide prevention.”
Prescott has shared openly about his own mental health challenges. He established the Faith Fight Finish Foundation as a tribute to his mom, Peggy, who lost her battle with colon cancer in 2013, and its work also honors his brother, Jace, who died by suicide in 2020.
Similarly, Thomas (a Dallas native) lost his sister, Ella, to suicide in 2018 and has spoken openly to his teammates, other players and the public. He co-founded The Defensive Line with his parents, Martha and Chris Thomas, and the organization focuses on mental health and suicide prevention. Off the field, Solomon has dedicated his life to sharing Ella’s story.
The overall message from both men is that their faith is what keeps them going. They reiterated to be kind.
· “We must treat ourselves as human beings and others as human beings.”
· “Ask people not how they are doing, but how are you really doing.”
· “Vote and identify candidates who care about mental health. We have to make sure our kids have support in schools. We didn’t see widespread support 10 years ago.”
· “Vulnerability is strength.”
· “When my brother died, I went back to my room and wrote down – one life lost for thousands more saved.” (Mental health and suicide prevention is one of the pillars of his foundation.)
· “Depression and anxiety can overwhelm you. I realized that during the first month of COVID. Sunny days felt dark, and my big house and yard felt small and closed in.”
· “We have the obligation to take care of ourselves and neighbors. Help your neighbors and loved ones.”
· “We have hope. React in a healthy way.”
Three local students joined Prescott and Thomas on stage to ask questions. One student, Chloe Moore, asked, “What advice would you give to teenagers if we know someone who is struggling with depression or thoughts of suicide?”
Prescott replied, “Be a friend and talk about it. Ask how are you really doing?’ Pick at the fire. Put that really in there. Say things like, ‘I’m here for you. I’ve noticed small changes in your behavior.’”
Thomas reiterated how important it is to be a friend and to be open about talking about going to therapy and sharing what he learned to normalize the conversations about mental health and getting help.
After the presentation, Hall presented the Beacon Award to both Prescott and Thomas for their leadership on and off the field to raise awareness about mental health and suicide prevention.
ABOUT GRANT HALLIBURTON FOUNDATION
Grant Halliburton Foundation was established in 2006 in memory of a Dallas teen who battled depression and bipolar disorder for several years before his suicide death at the age of 19. The Foundation that bears his name works to help families and young people recognize the signs of mental illness through a variety of avenues including education, conferences, collaboration and encouragement. Since 2006, the Foundation has provided mental health education, training and support to more than 300,000 students, educators, parents and professionals. The Foundation also offers Here For Texas, which includes HereForTexas.com and the Here For Texas Mental Health Navigation Line. These free community tools aim to offer easy access for North Texans seeking mental health and addiction information and resources. Learn more about the Foundation at GrantHalliburton.org.