Tucson Sugar Skull Matt Burrell shares his battle with mental health


Tucson Sugar Skull center Matt Burrell extends his arms after practice at Kino Sports Complex.

« I got scars, here, relatively vertical, » says Burrell. « All my tattoos cover up scars from self-harm as well. »

Matt Burrell’s battle with mental health began long before he was a U.S. Army High School All-American in Northern Virginia. It started when he felt responsible for a loss in a middle school basketball game.

« As soon as I did something wrong, I felt like they hated me. And, I’m a people person, so if I’m not pleasing you, I’m not really worthy. »

Burrell says he battled through anxiety and depression as he was recruited to Ohio State, one of the top football programs in the nation.

« I wore it, too. I had a whole lot of bravado to it. But, it was fake. »

Burrell battled for playing time. However, his biggest battle was with himself, as he attempted suicide.

« I’ve dealt with self-harm. I’ve dealt with all different types of mental abuse to myself. »

Burrell would transfer to Ohio State for more playing time. His mental health started to improve as he says he found religion, worked on his breathing, and had a son.

« I still get spells. I have a way to blank it. »

Now playing for the Sugar Skulls, Burrell has found a home. He’s moving to Tucson full-time and has already gotten involved in the community by coaching.

« Anxiety and depression is a choice I can choose to fight, or I can choose to let it beat me up. That’s why I’m chipper. I didn’t fight demons. I defeated demons. »