My name is Makenzie Mason. I’m a 19-year-old student athlete at the University of Florida, and I’m currently battling depression and anxiety. Back in early September, I chose to return home to Nashville to focus on my mental health because it was getting in the way of my ability to function. But when I got home I felt more hopeless than ever that recovery was possible for me.

I had just left a therapy session a few weeks after returning home when my mom told me about an article she had read about the suicide of NFL player Solomon Thomas’ sister, Ella. I was in absolute shock. Before he became the head coach of Vanderbilt’s football team, my dad, Derek Mason, used to be Stanford’s defensive coordinator. I vividly remember when he was recruiting Solomon. I was about 12 years old. I always knew Solomon had a close relationship with his sister and remember seeing a picture of them together. She seemed so cool and beautiful to me.

But maybe I shouldn’t have been shocked by her death. I know firsthand that depression is a deadly illness that most people can’t see. That’s why I decided to speak up on the issue from the perspective of someone actually going through it. If Solomon was able to share his heartbreaking story, then the least I could do was to share mine, so that those who are suffering from depression or love someone with depression don’t have to go through what the Thomas family have endured. People too often only hear about someone’s depression after that person takes their own life, then wonder what they could have done to help. That needs to change. I get why someone who has never gone through it would have a hard time understanding what would drive someone to commit suicide — because it isn’t rational. But that’s just it: Depression is a disease that infects your brain to the point where you can no longer think rationally.

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