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Thielen Joins 'TODAY' Panel with Carson Daly to Promote Mental Health

It's not often Adam Thielen and Demario Davis are on the same side.

But the Vikings receiver and Saints linebacker are teaming up with other NFL peers to break down a stigma around the topic of mental health.

Thielen, Davis, Jaguars receiver DJ Chark and Raiders defensive lineman Solomon Thomas recently joined Carson Daly of NBC’s “TODAY” for a virtual panel on normalizing mental health conversations.

Thielen earlier this spring discussed Thielen Foundation's focus on the often-overlooked area of youth mental wellbeing.

"I can't explain just how important it is to say, 'I have some things going on, and I need some help," Thielen told Daly regarding young people. "Because we're there to help them now."

Added Davis: "We're three-part beings – we're spiritual, mental, physical – so you can't leave the mind behind."

Thomas started his own foundation, The Defensive Line, which strives to end the epidemic of youth suicide. Thomas' sister, Ella, tragically took her own life in 2018.

Grieving the loss of Ella spiraled Thomas into his own battle with depression, and he's since realized how important it is to be authentic about whatever one is going through.

"I knew I needed help. I wasn't going to survive without help," Thomas said.

The NFL – and other sports leagues – have taken strides in tending to athletes' mental health; whether within the NFL or just society in general, though, there is always room to grow.

"I think the stigma's pretty strong. That's one reason I didn't start speaking right away about my depression, about my journey, about my sister's journey," Thomas said. "I didn't know what fans would think, what teammates would think."

Chark, who first started battling anxiety during his collegiate career at LSU, echoed Thomas' sentiments, saying it's easy to fear being perceived as weak.

Thielen hopes that everyone will soon realize that speaking out about one's mental health is actually just the opposite.

"I think that shows courage when you [open up] and say, whatever it is, 'I have this issue. I have something I'm struggling with,' " Thielen said. "That's courage to come out and tell your brothers that in the locker room."

Davis concurred.

"Even if you want to look at it as gladiators being on the field, what's going to make the best gladiator? A gladiator needs to walk out as mentally sharp as he is physically sharp," Davis emphasized.

The "TODAY" segment featured a quote from Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst, who last year opened up about his mental health journey and battle with depression:

"Keep fighting. Keep going. Because as bad, as dark as it gets, I promise you there is someone out there in your life that loves you, that will support you and will help you in that situation," Hurst said.

The panel of NFL front-liners shared similar messages of support to anyone listening to the panel.

"It's OK to not be OK," Thomas said. "It's OK to be sad, awkward, whatever it is, and go get help. There's help out there for you."

Chark added: "Just know you're not alone. I know that for a fact, because once I opened up, I found people whom I'm able to have conversations with, guys like you, who I never thought I'd have a conversation with – definitely not about this. Definitely not on the "TODAY" show."

Though several of these players will face each other on game days this season, it remains clear that the foursome – and many more – are united in making a difference off the field.

"All you gentlemen are heroes because of your transparency, your honesty, and being an example to many people to say, 'Hey, we don't have it all right. We're not perfect. But it's OK. And we're going to do this together,' " Davis told Thielen, Chark and Thomas. "And because of that, you are all leaders and heroes – and I appreciate you guys."