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Former IU football player pursues sports psychology after his own mental health battle

This story explores suicide. If you are at risk, please stop here and contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for support: 1-800-273-8255.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Former Indiana cornerback A’Shon Riggins started fast for the Hoosiers, but by his junior season, injuries began to take a toll.

“I started as a freshman, All Big Ten honorable mention,” said Riggins. “I was starting one week and then not starting the next week and mentally that was bothering me. Like what was I doing wrong to not consistently be a starter? On top of that I wasn’t doing good in school, I was distancing myself from friends. It was a Tuesday in the middle of a practice week against Rutgers, my junior year, I attempted suicide.”

Riggins was hospitalized for three days and diagnosed with anxiety and depression. He was completely of how much he had been struggling with his mental health.

“I bottled in everything because I didn’t know what was going on and kids may not know, but I didn’t know,” said Riggins. “I didn’t know that I had a support system to talk to.”

However, when the helmet came off, Riggins started making waves that no one would have imagined. 

“It really opened my eyes. I’m like, ‘Hey, I’m gonna go. I’m going to be OK.’ I’m like, ‘What’s my next step?’ While I was in the hospital, I came up with the idea to start a program at the athletic center,” Riggins added. “It was called ‘Real Spill, Real Stories, Real People,’ where I would just have like, male athletes come in and we just basically just have an open dialogue about daily struggles, or even accomplishments and I share some coping mechanisms.” 

With the help of IU Athletics and their sports psychology department, Riggins continues his fight to end mental health stigma for other athletes. He graduated with his bachelor’s degree earlier this year, but his work is far from over.

“I want to be a sports psychologist; having a sports psychology department is so huge,” said Riggins. “If we didn’t have that, there’s no telling where I would be right now.”

In two weeks, Riggins begins his master’s degree and his pursuit of a Ph.D. to become a psychologist.

There is immediate help available if you have suicidal thoughts. Call the national suicide prevention hotline: the number is 1-800-273-8255. You can also text “IN” to 741741.