ROCK HILL, S.C. — A Rock Hill native played football as a child and made it all the way to the NFL, but he said a devastating injury sent him into a deep depression.
Channel 9′s Tina Terry was there as Roderick Byers and others from his hometown talked about mental health and ways to help others like him.
As a little boy, football was Byers’ dream. He played for Clemson University and helped them win a national championship.
“My career, I suffered from anxiety, depression. The worst part is that I didn’t know I was dealing with that,” he said.
He made it to the NFL, signing with the Carolina Panthers, but a serious spinal injury ended his career, which he said sent him into a deeper hole.
“I had attachment issues to the jersey and to the person who was wearing it. And I didn’t feel like I had value outside of that, so I was safe just trying to find my identity away from being a football player,” Byers said.
Byers said he trusted God to help him get out of depression. On Tuesday, he joined city, county and school leaders in Rock Hill to talk about ways to help others.
“We acknowledge there’s problems. We’re figuring out ways to help those, so we won’t have to deal with those problems as much as we’ve been doing,” he said.
A report from Rock Hill Schools shows that in 2021, 500 students expressed suicidal thoughts, with many of those students in elementary school.
The district has created a department of mental health to address the crisis. Byers hopes to partner with them in the near future to reach kids in need.
“You have to be real with them, vulnerable with them. Take off armor and remove egos, and really meet these children and listen,” Byers said.
(WATCH BELOW: Mental health advocate walks to raise awareness for suicide prevention)
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