RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond Kickers defender Devante Dubose shared his years-long battle with mental health ahead of the Kickers May 8 game dedicated to mental health awareness.
From a young age, Dubose said his mentality has always been to give 110%.
"That was my escapism," Dubose said. "Working hard. It was, okay, I got to work harder."
After living most of his life that way, Dubose said he eventually ran out of stamina.
"It took time to realize, to say what is this, what happened to me," said Dubose.
As an 18-year-old Virginia Tech freshman, Dubose was returning to his home in Oakland, California when he said he lost a sense of self. He was 51/50'ed or put on a psychiatric hold.
"I had a great experience [at Virginia Tech]. I got to play finally, my freshman year, I got to play. And honestly, I was on a high. And then the next thing you know one thing led to another," he said. "What happened? I can’t tell you exactly what happened. But I can tell you it’s an accumulation. It’s me not understanding what I had to deal with in my past."
Six years later, Dubose said it happened again.
"I can tell you this, it’s because I didn’t do my best job to ask for help," he said.
That’s when Dubose said he made a change.
"I took a year off of professional soccer, I got into coaching where I learned human behavior, which I got my degree in human development as well, and I dove deep into myself," said Dubose. "I educated myself, I dove in my community, and I probably learned the most from my mentors and from working with people."
Dubose said he now brings that awareness to the soccer field and in his interactions with others -- in practice, games, and coaching.
"If I don’t understand my teammate on the field it’s going to be very hard," said Dubose.
Emily Klein has seen the impact a positive mentor can have.
"Knowing that some of these guys also had challenges is -- is amazing," the Chesterfield mom said. "It's been a tough year."
Klein's son Jackson and daughter Anna participate in the Richmond Kickers Youth Program.
"I always know that there's a problem when my son doesn't want to play soccer," Klein said.
She said the past year, she watched both her children struggle to cope with the isolation of virtual learning in the pandemic.
But she said her children's coaches were teaching them more than the game.
"Being able to connect with them, while he wasn't with his team or with his friends, they were able to connect, and that just brought light back to his eyes," Klein said of her son. "They're more than just a coach. They're a mentor."
Klein said she was inspired to do something to raise awareness, and let other young people know they're not alone. She and the Richmond Kickers teamed up to kick the stigma surrounding mental health conditions. The Kickers game on May 8 would be dedicated to mental health awareness.
Klein said other organizations like the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Nami, and Bon Secours also jumped on board.
Representatives from those organizations plan to be at the May 8 game to answer questions and offer resources.
"There's going be opportunities and hopefully, easy opportunities, to get information, even if you're not struggling, you might know peer. Be able to get that information -- or even just gain a sense of community surrounding mental health," said Klein. "It's almost like a big hug, you know? So, they'll be there. If anybody wants to talk, needs to talk, or if you just want a chain or stress ball."
Klein said she chose the May 8 game because May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and May 6 is Children's Mental Health Awareness Day.
"So, getting close to that was important for me," said Klein.
For Dubose, taking time to delve into himself has made all the difference.
"I gained myself back," said Dubose. " And the next thing you know 2018, I was signed to Phoenix Rising. That was one of the best years of my life."
But Dubose said the work wasn't done.
"I dropped in a slope halfway through the season. I was like, 'ah I’m here again,' but I had my teammates this time. I was a little more aware. It’s an ongoing process of learning," said Dubose. "If we all can do our part starting with ourselves then the rest will follow."