SAN MATEO (KPIX) — It was another Friday Night Lights at Serra High School in San Mateo: cheerleaders, the national anthem and homecoming vs. rival Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose.
But, before talk on Freitas Field turned to touchdowns and turnovers, it also touched on a subject not typically broached during high school football season: the tragedy of teenage suicides.
Padres quarterback Luke Bottari said this: “I know what teenage suicide is all about and I know what losing a friend is like.”
On the field, Bottari is the leader of the Serra Padres. Off the field, he’s also leading the conversation about teenage mental health after launching “Play4Prevention” a non-profit foundation to instruct teens and parents about mental health.
“I want to challenge each of you and your parents, as well as teens, to start speaking up and asking — talk with your peers about how to cope with feelings or changes you see in them. Teen suicide is preventable. I believe prevention has to start with us as teens,” Bottari said.
Bottari got the idea for the program after a close friend committed suicide. In June, he began moving from idea to action.
“He went to his football coach here, Coach Walsh, and said, ‘Hey, here’s an idea I have that I’d like to do at one of our games, what game do you think we should do it at?’ and they took the idea from there and kinda blew it up,” Luke’s mother, Natasha Bottari told KPIX.
“There’s a lot of kids out there like that. Their voices need to be heard and this is a start — and our program is as well: a start,” said Lesley Martin from Safe Space.
Beyond the banner of competition there is now camaraderie. Even the opposing Monarchs from AMHS wore Play4Prevention socks on Friday.
“After this weekend, when you look at the socks, pull them out of your drawer and know that talking to someone just may save their life,” Luke Bottari said.