High school coach launches nonprofit to help teens struggling with depression

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A new nonprofit organization is bringing attention to depression at a time when teen suicide is on the rise.

Tackling Depression was founded by high school football and basketball coach Bill Kvalheim. At 31 years old, Kvalheim says that he had a great job, a great wife and a great life. But he says that it doesn’t mean that he is immune from depression.

“It just happened out of nowhere, I mean it clicked on to where – I was just not there…felt like I wasn’t right,” he says.

He says that every day is a battle to manage anxiety and depression. He says that he fears that some of his peers may be stuck in an older way of thinking about mental health.

“People would just say, ‘Get over it. Get over it…hide that thing under the rug.’ That was the thing to do,” Kvalheim says.

But things are changing. A new law in New Jersey requires that schools from K-12 teach about mental health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says teen suicides increased by nearly 56% during the period of 2007-2017. Many experts blame social media, where it's easier than ever to feel bullied and isolated.

“They’re glued to their phones. If they’re not with their phones, they’re panicking,” Kvalheim says.

Kvalheim says that he spent most of his life playing football – an activity that came with structure from practice, games and team meetings. But he says that when his football career ended after college, his problems with anxiety began.

“I had nothing to do, you know what I mean? All of a sudden, I was having heart palpitations, couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t get that breath out,” he says.

Tackling Depression is putting together a mental health directory. Kvalheim says that while he isn’t a therapist, he wants to make sure that tee youth have a place to turn to. He says that if his story helps just one person, then it will be worth it.

Tacking Depression is also partnering with XFL’s New York Guardians for a fundraising event at the Meadowlands.

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