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'It's okay not to feel okay' | NFL defensive lineman, Coppell grad and top donor for Allen victims talks mental health after tragedy

Solomon Thomas donated to the Cho and Mendoza family shortly after their GoFundMe accounts went live.

ALLEN, Texas — Solomon Thomas arrived in Texas on Thursday, and his heart was much heavier than his last visit. 

The Coppell graduate is a football star -- going from the gridiron in North Texas to Stanford University and then to being picked third overall in the 2017 NFL Draft. 

The 27-year-old now calls New York home, playing on the defensive line for the Jets. 

It's where he was when he heard about the shooting at the Allen Premium Outlets that claimed eight lives

Thomas told WFAA on Thursday that he used to go to the outlet mall growing up. He also understands the palpable agony of suddenly losing a loved one. 

In 2018, Thomas' sister Ella took her own life at the young age of 23. 

"This was scary," Thomas said. "This is 20 minutes from the community where we grew up. I mean, the whole community is affected. You're disgusted, and you're scared. It's just a traumatic event, and you hate that it's happening so frequently in our country." 

Shortly after GoFundMe accounts were created for the Cho and Mendoza families (combined, both lost five to the shooting), Thomas was listed as a top donor. 

Arizona Cardinals quarterback and Allen graduate Kyler Murray has also donated to the Cho family. 

William Cho, 6, lost his mother, father and brother and has since been released from the hospital. 

Sisters Daniela and Sofia Mendoza were killed, while their mother was critically wounded and is still hospitalized. 

Thomas told WFAA he doesn't want publicity for the donations. He only wants to champion mental health following the tragedy. 

After his sister's suicide, Thomas and his family created the Texas foundation, The Defensive Line, to help address mental health and prevent young people of color from taking their own lives. 

Thomas had to deal with the blow of losing his sister while starting in the NFL. 

He said that talking things out shouldn't be suppressed at a time like this. 

Whether with a loved one, friend or even a hotline. 

"I think it's just so important to know the basics," Thomas said. "Understanding the numbers to call and the numbers to text is so huge. Don't be afraid to be vulnerable. Listening to and being there for someone is also important right now." 

"It's okay not to be okay. You don't have to go from enduring a tragedy like this to being okay. It's not normal to be okay after something like this, and it's normal to feel sad, helpless, or depressed," he said.

Right now, many of us are struggling to process what happened, and it hasn't even been a week. 

A mass shooting brings its hurt wherever it happens. Thomas only wonders when that hurt will stop spreading. 

"We need to put an end to things like this. As a nation, we have a choice to stop this. We do. Whether we want to believe it or not. We have to put political battles aside. We have to put human lives first," Thomas said. 

"We are one of the most developed and powerful countries in the world, and we have to understand that we as a people can stop this, but we have to make that choice. It's too sad, it's too tragic, and it's happening way too often," he added.

LifePath Systems shared on social media that it is offering the Collin County community free counseling after the shooting. Anyone wanting to speak to a counselor can call 972-422-5939 or go to the LifePath Systems website.

 Text HOME to 741741 to reach someone at the Crisis Text Line. 

“988” is the three-digit, nationwide phone number to connect directly to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

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