‘It’s okay to not be okay’: 49ers’ Solomon Thomas turns personal tragedy into powerful message

Sports

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (KRON) – Drawing from his own personal tragedy, San Francisco 49ers’ Solomon Thomas is looking to turn pain into something positive. 

Back in 2018, the defensive lineman lost his sister Ella, due to suicide. 

“It was extremely difficult for me. I really couldn’t focus on anything past Ella’s death. My sister was the biggest thing of my world,” Thomas said.

“I was like ‘What’s next?’ Like my sister’s dead how can I just keep going on with my day.”

The timing of losing his best friend stung, as his dreams had just come true. One year prior he had been selected No. 3 overall by the 49ers.

“It took awhile through the grieving process to finally move on you know I had to really realize through this I have to take all the amazing qualities from my sister and you know apply them to my life and move through everyday.”

Thomas fell into a deep depression, causing an impact on the field. But now, he’s telling his sister Ella’s story and using his platform as an advocate for mental health and suicide prevention, to help those who may need it.

“We’re gonna honor Ella every day in our life going forward. We’re gonna use her story to save other peoples lives. To be stigmatized. The stigma against mental health. And to stop suicide,” Thomas said.

With the pandemic causing sports to timeout, the defensive lineman wants to reach out to fellow athletes.

“It’s okay to feel weird, it’s okay to not be okay and I feel like that’s really important for them to hear. To know that they need to work on their physical health just as much as their mental health.”

And to tell those who are feeling lost, “You’re perfectly perfect being you the way you are whether you’re sad, happy, you know feel awkward, feel weird. You know, that’s okay, those feelings are okay. You know you embrace those feelings because you’re feeling them for a reason.” 

In recent years, Thomas and his family have taken part in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, “Out of the Darkness,” overnight walk.

“My family and I started working with AFSP the summer after Ella died by suicide . We didn’t really know where to go and we saw a flyer in the mail ‘Overnight out of the Darkness’ walk for suicide prevention,” Thomas said. “I didn’t really want to do it at first, my mom encouraged us to do it and we were able to do it and with the amazing love from the Niners, we were able to raise over $50,000 for suicide prevention.”

Thomas added, “It was the first time for us to be connected with other suicide survivors, the people who have lost loved ones by suicide and it was a sense of hope.  It was a sense of being able to move on. Seeing all these other people still living their life, still honoring their loved ones still finding a way to create change in this world. It was very motivating for us and gave us a sense of hope and it just made that light a little bigger at the end of the tunnel that we can keep pushing forward.”

The defensive lineman has been a powerful voice and advocate for mental health in the NFL.

If you or someone you know is in immediate crisis, you can call 911 or reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or chat with someone online.

Photos courtesy Solomon Thomas.

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