PROVO, Utah (ABC4) – BYU linebacker and strong safety Chaz Ah You is getting ready for the upcoming season, but one year ago he almost gave up not only on football, but on life.
Chaz said he was suicidal and might have gone through with it if not for a stranger, who lives more than 2,000 miles away.
Ah You was at the top of his game in 2019, but the following spring he hit a new low, suffering silently with depression and suicidal thoughts when he got a direct message on Twitter from someone he’d never met.
“I’m Fonda Bryant,” she said in an online video. “I struggle with clinical depression and I’m a 26-year suicide survivor.”
Bryant is a certified suicide prevention instructor who saves lives, not with CPR, but with Question, Persuade, and Refer. She was scrolling Twitter at her home in Charlotte, North Carolina when she saw a video of Ah You.
“I just knew something was wrong. It was the way he was talking. It was just his mannerisms,” Bryant told ABC4 News. “I sent him a message in his DMs and I asked him ‘Hey young man, are you OK?’…I asked him straight out, ‘Are you suicidal?’ He disappeared for two weeks but that still didn’t stop me. I kept sending him messages in his DM, ‘Are you alright? Are you OK? Let me help you. I’m a suicide survivor myself. We can get through this.'”
Eventually, Ah You responded, and the two began a dialogue.
“We started texting offline,” she said. “And he told me that two weeks before I reached out to him, he was planning his suicide…That is the eighth leading cause of death in Utah and for young people 10 to 24, that is the number one killer in Utah.”
But thankfully, Ah You didn’t become a statistic; Bryant convinced him to get help.
“She kind of helped me push myself to open up about this,” Ah You told BYUTV’s SportsNation. “She’s a huge mental health advocate and she said there are lots of people who are struggling with it, and so I feel like I can be a voice for those people.”
The two met at the Coastal Carolina game last December. They hit it off so well that the Cougars brought Bryant to Provo in April, to teach the team the warning signs of suicide.
“I have no doubt that the players I trained at BYU and all student-athletes that I’ve been training have the tools to be able to help a teammate,” Bryant said. “And they won’t think twice about it.”
Bryant’s educational efforts also caught the attention of ABC4’s parent company, Nexstar Broadcasting, which named her Nexstar’s 2021 Remarkable Woman of the Year.
Bryant and Ah You have both had remarkable paths in life; some say the way those paths intersected was a miracle.
“I truly believe it was divine intervention,” she said. “That I was on Twitter that particular day, saw that tweet and knew something was wrong but the thing is anyone can save someone’s life if they care enough and learn those warning signs.”
Ah You is BYU’s projected starter at strong safety after missing most of last season with a leg injury.
Bryant continues to teach suicide prevention this summer, including more college football teams.
If you or someone you know is thinking about self-harm, go to https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ or call 1-800-273-8255.
For the SafeUT Crisis Chat, go to https://healthcare.utah.edu/hmhi/safe-ut/