BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Whether it’s on the field or off the field, University of Alabama offensive lineman Javion Cohen is no stranger to battling adversity.
From the outside looking in, it would be easy to think Cohen lives the perfect life. Every Saturday in the fall, he suits up in front of thousands of fans, millions more on national television. But everyone in life faces their own challenges. Cohen is no different.
Cohen, who grew up in Phenix City and is entering his junior season with the Tide, has been at Herren Wellness Recovery Center for the past month for mental health reasons. It was a trip Cohen said has changed his life for the better.
“My time there was the greatest experience I’ve had in my life. Honestly, it saved my life,” Cohen said. “I always felt like I was alone and felt like I couldn’t open up and from day one, walking in there, being vulnerable and transparent about everything that’s going on , I figured out that that really wasn’t what the case was. I have a support system that I can lean on and knowing that really helped push me through the whole process.”
Keeping your mind in a good place and focused is extremely important for anyone, but especially for someone who has to block the person in front of them every play for four quarters.
“You know, it’s something that a lot of people don’t pay attention to. And I think that it helps give me an advantage as well because, you know, a lot of emotions flare throughout the game, throughout the week, throughout the whole process of getting towards Saturday and being able to have your emotions in tact, not getting too high, not getting too low but keeping an even-keeled attitude about yourself is important,” Cohen said. “And I know I feel really great now, going out there to practice, not worrying too much about different things and just being able to focus on what I got to get done.”
Cohen has been active on social media in spreading awareness to mental health issues, as well as to help others who may be facing the same challenges. He said he wants to use his platform to continue to spread awareness and get people the help they need.
“Definitely pushing the social media thing a lot… I’ve been talking with my agents about doing mental health camps, actually been talking about bringing that here to Alabama as well. Setting up different groups where maybe five or six players would sit around and you know, just talk about what’s really going on and be vulnerable and be open to be able to express those things and have an outlet to be able to share those kind of things,” he said.
Cohen said he plans to follow in the footsteps of Solomon Thomas, who started his own foundation, “The Defensive Line,” about mental health. Thomas, who was the third overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, lost his sister to suicide in 2018. He started “The Defensive Line” in honor of her.
Cohen understands how many who suffer from mental illness don’t know where to get help. He hopes he can help people find what they need.
“It’s all kinds of websites all over, various pages, the suicide hotline number changed July 16, it’s 988 now,” he said. “You can just text them and really talk about it and it’s somebody you don’t even know, but they’re there to comfort you, there to care for you, to be able to explain and work through all your issues.”
Cohen wants those fighting the same fight as him to know that even when no one else is there for you, he will be.
“Keep fighting. It’s not easy, never has been and you’re not alone. That’s a big thing too, you’re not alone. Somebody out there cares about you, I’m pretty sure everyone has at least one person and if not, you have the hotline. If you don’t have one person, you have me,” he said. “So keep fighting, find those top five people that support you more than anything and lean on them… and when you start the process, go in completely vulnerable, completely transparent about everything that’s going on, it could do you no harm.”