DORI MONSON

UW football players de-stigmatize depression with heart hoodies

Feb 14, 2020, 2:47 PM | Updated: 5:02 pm
depression...
Race Porter (left) and Myles Gaskin (right) model the Heart On My Sleeve sweatshirts, which aim to raise awareness of depression and decrease the stigma around mental health. (Photo courtesy of Race Porter and Myles Gaskin)
(Photo courtesy of Race Porter and Myles Gaskin)

To his friends, classmates, and teammates, O’Dea High School football player Race Porter seemed to have it all: charisma, popularity, and skill on the gridiron.

But when the games and celebrations were over and he was back in his room, it was a different story.

“All my struggles came when I was completely alone, locked away in my own room,” said Porter, now a University of Washington punter. “And that was why it was so hard — because when I was out and interacting with people, no one could tell, because I put up this front and felt like I had to be the person everyone thought I was.”

The pressure to be happy-go-lucky all the time made the depression even worse because Porter felt guilty about telling anyone what he was going through. What could the football star have to be depressed about?

Parents of late WSU football player Tyler Hilinski launch effort to help student athletes with depression, anxiety

“That was the base of my issue because of that mindset and that status that was created with the environment around me,” Porter said on the Dori Monson Show.

Fellow O’Dea football player Myles Gaskin, who roomed with Porter when they were both on the UW football team, noticed his friend shutting himself in his room for extraordinary amount of time.

“Being with Race during that time kind of opened up my eyes to Race’s struggles and opened up my eyes to other people’s struggles,” Gaskin said. “Hey, maybe they’re not showing that they’re down or depressed right now in a group setting, but sometimes you need to dig a little deeper just to make sure that somebody is OK.”

Gaskin, now a running back for the Miami Dolphins, did not immediately approach Porter about depression, but instead started engaging him in regular conversations about what he had done that day and what made him happy.

“One of the biggest issues around mental health is the stigma that once you recognize symptoms or see it in someone, you have to do something right away, and it has to be drastic,” Porter said. “I think that leads kids down the wrong way. Sometimes kids just need a conversation, … they need someone to talk to. And during my darkest times, Myles was that person for me.”

Simply having a friend who cared about him and in whom he could confide made all the difference.

“It started to get better because I felt like I had someone to talk to,” Porter said.

Instead of pressuring Porter to talk about why he was sad, Gaskin said he wanted to give his friend the chance to “be able to talk about anything else” — to forget his problems for a while and focus on what made him feel glad. Sometimes this was just a simple trip to Gasworks Park to enjoy the postcard view of Seattle.

“You realize, ‘This 10-minute excursion, this 10-minute hangout just changed my day,'” Gaskin said.

In time, Porter felt comfortable talking about depression.

“If you can just give somebody your time, I think that shows that someone cares about them,” Gaskin said.  ” … you need to be able to talk to people, because you don’t know what people feel like when they’re alone.”

A campaign to raise awareness of depression

The experience inspired Porter and Gaskin to start the Heart On My Sleeve hoodie campaign. The two football players are selling sweatshirts and T-shirts with images of full and broken hearts in order to generate awareness of depression, raise funds for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and, perhaps most importantly, erase the stigma around mental health issues.

Porter described the design — a full heart, a half-broken heart, and a full broken heart — as “simplified down to the three different stages your heart goes through.”

“It’s such a simple design, but it means so much more,” he said. “And the phases are really supposed to represent that, on any given day, your heart can feel however it feels. And you should be able to feel confident with that.”

For Porter, the hoodies are a coping mechanism for when times are tough. The sweatshirt reminds everyone that on days when they might feel broken, better days are ahead.

“I want people to be able to throw on their H.O.M.S. hoodie and feel like there are other people out there wearing it that day who are going through stuff too, so that they can be strong and feel like they have a community behind them,” Porter said.

For more information about mental illness, visit the National Institute of Mental Health or Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. If you or a loved one is in crisis, contact the 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from 12-3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

Dori Monson on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM
  • listen to dori monsonTune in to KIRO Radio weekdays at 12 noon for The Dori Monson Show.

Dori Monson Show

Dori Monson

scam, vaccine...
Dori Monson Show

Meet the firefighter and deckhand who won’t get vaccinated

Washington state’s COVID vaccine mandate for most government, healthcare, and education employees is set to take effect Oct. 18. Meet the state workers who are leaving their jobs.
3 days ago
JAY INSLEE, covid...
Dori Monson

Dori: Inslee planning to push COVID vax through 2024

Gov. Jay Inslee has given himself extra-constitutional "emergency" powers for 19 months. Now it looks like he is planning to extend those powers.
3 days ago
seattle police, vaccine...
Dori Monson Show

Seattle police union president says some officers are ‘willing to walk away’ from job in solidarity

If Seattle police officers are not vaccinated against COVID-19 or haven't submitted proof by Oct. 18, they risk losing their job.
6 days ago
mandate...
Dori Monson Show

King County Sheriff’s Office bans non-essential travel, sheriff travels to Boston

Employees with the King County Sheriff's Office were told all non-essential work-related travel "should be cancelled," but the sheriff went to Boston.
10 days ago
Ann Wilson...
Dori Monson Show

Heart’s Ann Wilson to sing National Anthem at Kraken’s first home game

Ann Wilson of the band Heart, a Seattle-area local, will help to open Climate Pledge Arena at the Seattle Kraken's first home game. 
11 days ago
Seattle shooting, downtown...
Dori Monson Show

Despite promises from mayor, downtown Seattle restaurant owner says area is still unsafe

Despite the mayor's promise of help, a downtown Seattle restaurant owner says he's cut his hours to five days a week, four hours a day over safety concerns.
11 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
...
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
...
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
...
Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for both lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.
...
Comcast

Small, Minority-Owned Businesses in King County and Pierce County Can Now Apply For $10,000 Relief Grants Through Comcast RISE

Businesses in King County and Pierce County can apply beginning on October 1, 2021, at www.ComcastRISE.com for a chance to receive a $10,000 relief grant.
Courtesy of JWatch Photography....
Experience Anacortes

Summer Fun Activities in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
UW football players de-stigmatize depression with heart hoodies