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Atlanta Falcons player Hayden Hurst opens up about depression and his "second shot" at life

Atlanta Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst opened up about his battles with depression and his "second shot" at life in a series of videos with his family released by his team on Thursday. Hurst is collaborating with Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott to promote their charities with cleats this weekend following a viral video showing him commend Prescott for talking about his mental health struggles. 

Hurst, who was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012, discussed in the clips that family losses and giving up his once-promising baseball career led to a spiral in his life. Earlier this year, he revealed in the Players' Tribune that his uncle and cousin committed suicide.

In 2015, he was admitted to the University of South Carolina to play football, but said he began to abuse drugs and alcohol, because he wanted to "numb the feeling of embarrassment where I wouldn't have to explain to my family as to why I was unraveling." 

"I can't really explain it," he said, tearing up. "It's hard to unless you've been through it. But, depression, when you feel like nobody's there … when you're in the headspace and in that dark spot, you do – you feel alone. Nobody's there. Nobody cares." 

Then in January 2016, Hurst said he tried to take his own life. 

"I wanted it to be over," he said. "For some reason I got a second chance at this thing."

Hurst drew strength from family members and his college coach supporting him, saying it "saved my life." He dedicated himself to football and was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in 2018. 

"Keep fighting, keep going," Hurst said. "As bad, as dark as it gets, I promise you there's someone out there who cares and wants to see you succeed at whatever you do, it doesn't have to be professional sports." 

More than 1,000 players will participate in the the NFL's annual "My Cause My Cleats" campaign, dedicated to players' non-profits and causes. Among them will be Hurst, who will don a pair of cleats featuring Prescott's organization, "Faith Fight Finish" and San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Soloman Thomas' "End Stigma. Change Lives." Hurst will also promote his family foundation, which aims to raise awareness for mental health issues in children and adolescents. 

Prescott, who is currently sidelined with a torn ACL, voiced his struggles with mental health after the loss of his brother during the pandemic. He received widespread praise throughout NFL and across sports. In a rare public moment of vulnerability among players, Hurst praised Prescott for opening up and in turn, Prescott suggested they work together. 

For immediate help if you are in a crisis, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All calls are confidential. The Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 is also confidential, free and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can also text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.

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