On Jan. 24, students at Bay Minette Middle School were inspired by the words of Daniel Truelove, a former Alabama State University football player and mental health advocate who delivered an assembly …
On Jan. 24, students at Bay Minette Middle School were inspired by the words of Daniel Truelove, a former Alabama State University football player and mental health advocate who delivered an assembly on mental health, overcoming adversity and the power of education.
Truelove, who was born and raised in Alabama, said he was the youngest of 11 children and first began experiencing mental health issues and behavior challenges after losing three of his siblings before his 14th birthday.
"Losing three siblings intensified the feelings I was already having, and I didn't always respond in an appropriate way," Truelove said. "I tried the best I could to move forward, but for me I acted out."
However, Truelove said after his immense loss that he began channeling his frustrations into sports, and football quickly became an outlet for his emotions.
"Football was somewhere where nothing else mattered. I got celebrated and valued a lot, and I thrived in sports," Truelove said. "But, my college football career didn't turn out how I thought it would. Being young and thinking that football was my only option for success, I came to a crossroad after graduation, and I didn't know my purpose."
Truelove said it was at this crossroad that he began to have suicidal thoughts for the first time, confronted with the emotions and trauma from his younger years.
"It was 2009, and my friends were getting drafted and moving away, and my career wasn't where I wanted it to be," Truelove said. "I felt it was too heavy, and I had never released things that I was carrying when I was younger. I actually reached out to a friend to say goodbye, and right as I put my phone up he sent me a text back saying he was struggling with the same things."
Truelove cited that text message as a breakthrough moment for him, as it was the first time he realized he wasn't alone in his feelings.
"We were in the same situation but not talking about it, and that was a perspective that I needed to realize that I have to keep fighting," Truelove said. "It led me to the education field, where I began pursuing higher education, and now I'm a teacher."
Truelove said that after an interaction with a student in the same situation, he shared his story for the first time.
In the 15 years that have passed since he contemplated taking his life, Truelove has written and published a book and now tours the country delivering his message of hope and perseverance to impressionable educators and students.
"I work with a lot of Title I schools and center around mental health. The goal to take them (students) to take away from where they are at and help them envision something outside of that," Truelove said. "I want to plant that seed for them to desire more than what is in their inner circle and in front of them."
Truelove said one of the most unique parts of sharing his story has been connecting with other students and the opportunity to be that spark to remind them that they aren't alone in their feelings.
"Every single time, it never fails to where a student will come up and share their story with me. It takes a lot of trust of a student to open up, and it takes vulnerability to share the not so pretty parts of life," Truelove said. "Hundreds of kids have come up to me to share what they are struggling with, and it can be challenging because you hear the stories, frustrations, pain and turmoil that they are feeling."
Truelove said he would encourage all students to "be the one" and not shy away from dreaming and creating big goals for their life.
"Don't allow your circumstances to stop you from dreaming. My mother and dad didn't go to college, but I did. Find the thing that motivates you and keeps you hungry and determined, and a lot of the times what you don't have in your life is the very thing that drives you," Truelove said. "Recognize that education is a key component of you experiencing that. You have to make sure you understand and are intelligent. Set yourself up for success, and education is the thing that bridges that gap from where we are to where we want to be."