The Super Football Conference (SFC) in conjunction with The Defensive Line and the New York Jets are collaborating on a Mental Health Awareness Series for New Jersey High Schools. The Defensive Line, co-founded by Jets defensive tackle Solomon Thomas, is a non-profit whose mission is to end the epidemic of youth suicide, especially for people of color, by transforming the way we communicate and connect about mental health.
The kickoff session for the series will begin at 7:30pm on October 11, 2022 at Clifton High School. Select SFC member schools have been extended invitations for their student-athletes and coaches to attend. Solomon Thomas will address the attendees on the importance of mental health awareness and discuss his journey. Additional sessions will be held on November 8 and December 6 at to be determined high school locations. The program will conclude at the Super Football Conference Young Man of the Year announcement hosted by the Jets at MetLife Stadium on January 3.
"I'm excited to speak at Clifton High School to emphasize the importance of mental health," says Thomas. "I will be speaking to the students about my story and how I've been impacted by suicide, and how I've once felt alone. During this time, I want to bring attention to the hopeful side of mental health – embracing your emotions and how there are ways to seek help for anyone battling with their own mental health issues. My goal is for the students is for them to feel free to embrace and prioritize their mental health."
Announced at the Super Football Conference Media Day hosted by the Jets and Nike at MetLife Stadium in August, student mental health awareness – with a particular emphasis on student athletes – is a 2022 top priority for the SFC. Highlighting The Defensive Line's approach to sessions for students, is open honest discussion of internal experiences, with a goal of eliminating shame and the stigma that inclines individuals to remain silent about their suffering.
"There's an ongoing epidemic of anxiety and depression among young people in New Jersey and across the country, and it's only been exacerbated by the recent pandemic," explains SFC 1st Vice President John Fraraccio, athletic director for West New York's Memorial High School. "We're extremely appreciative that the Jets and The Defensive Line organization are working with us to help bring greater understanding of the problem to students at several of our member high schools."