Tackling Suicide

Emily Gibbs

More stories from Emily Gibbs

Sitting down at the kitchen table with his father after his football game, twelve-year-old Maxwell Mangum learned the real reason his dad ran the New York City Marathon. 


Mangum’s uncle passed away in 1992 due to suicide. Mangum’s father was only 12-years-old when it happened, permanently changing his family. 


His family never spoke about it but he remembers his father running in marathons and raising money for suicide prevention. Mangum made it his mission to do the same; raising awareness through sports. 


 “In 2017, my dad ran the New York City Marathon, and to get his big run he ran a charity race for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention,” Mangum said. “I know my uncle had passed away before I was born, but my whole family never really talked about how it happened.” 

Writing on his cleats and showing off his towel, with the words #StopSuicide written in sharpie, gave him the opportunity to spread awareness on a mass scale every football game.


Maxwell Mangum, a varsity player for the Cypress Woods Football Team, is a new face of suicide prevention and awareness. 


 I get a lot of questions about it,” Mangum said.“What is this? What do you do, especially if it’s a towel itself? 4000 people sitting behind me when I’m on the sideline on the field, so after almost every single game, I get stopped afterward.” Mangum said.


Standing in front of a stadium with a capacity of 10,000 can be pretty intimidating for most, but Mangum makes it look easy. He’s willing to take up a conversation about this issue with anyone that asks him about what he is doing, and has never turned down the opportunity to educate others about the touchy subject. 


Prevention starts from the inside, so being able to integrate suicide prevention into school is important, as students spend up to 7-12 hours a day on campus. The immense workload that students face, including the responsibilities of extracurricular activities, can cause a great deal of stress for students. One resource used by the administration is Project Safety, where they show students presentations aimed at relevant adolescent struggles like suicide awareness and ways to reach out for help. Mangum has attended multiple meetings that share the goals of project safety.


“The problem is a lot of kids just don’t take that seriously,” Mangum said. “I know they’re taking some pretty solid steps and I’ve gone to some of their mental health meetings and I like the goal… But I think there’s just got to be a way to break that stigma without pushing kids in a direction not taken seriously.” 


Mangum said that the best way to reach out for help is by speaking to someone about what is bothering you. 


“To begin having someone to listen to is super helpful; they know that maybe you’re not there all the time or constantly emotionally available, but right now you can get a little bit of stress off,” Mangum said. 


Cody Simper, the Head Athletic Coordinator at Cy Woods, believes that Mangum is the right face for this movement because of his ability to lead with a purpose.


“I think he has a platform as a student-athlete on this campus,” Simper said. “We expect them to be a leader, and he’s using that platform appropriately, and I think we’re a better campus because of it. He just continues to show up every day and work hard and when he gets his opportunities he does the absolute best he can.”


Darnell Rogers, a varsity football player for the Cy Woods team and friend of Maxwell’s, knows how important it is to share your feelings during stressful times.


“Each individual one of us comes from different areas,” said Rogers. “For him especially he plays sports so he has more exposure. People can see that from him, they can kinda open up and feel welcome or they can talk to him about what they are feeling.” 


As he strives for greater efforts in the name of suicide prevention, Maxwell Mangum has continued to express his ideas about how important it is to take this issue seriously whether it is on the football field, or in the classroom. 


For students who also want to use add their voice in raising awareness for mental illness and suicide prevention, one option might be joining the Wildcat Mental Health Alliance.  This club meets once a month after school to advocate and promote mental health wellness in our school.  To find out more information about their next meeting you can join their remind by texting @WMHA2 to 81010.