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'I was done. I did not want to live anymore' | Coach LaMonte shares his own mental health struggles

Coach LaMonte, who hosts YouDay on WCNC Charlotte, opened up about his own battles with suicidal thoughts and his bipolar diagnosis.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Coach LaMonte Odums, the Charlotte-based motivational expert you see each day in his YouDay segments on WCNC Charlotte, is opening up about his own struggles with mental health.

“There are people that need encouragement,” Odums said. “There are people who need hope that do not have it.”

Odums spoke to WCNC Charlotte's Sarah French for a conversation debuting Friday ahead of a Sunday television special dedicated to mental health awareness

The man you see on TV

Odums said he always knew he wanted to be on television.

“My mom, she worked for WXYZ, an ABC affiliate [in Detroit]," Odums explained to French. "She would bring my brother and I to the studio."

French talked to Odums about his life, especially after his YouDay segments began over the past year.

"Obviously, you're on TV, you're giving encouragement to others, while at the same time, you were struggling as well," French asked during her one-on-one conversation.

“This year, I was in a parking garage at Waverly," Odums explained. "And I was writing a letter to my wife. I was writing a letter to her. I was done. I did not want to live anymore."

RELATED: Nearly $1 million in mental health grants heading to NC universities

Odums explained: The man you see on TV is not always the man he feels like.

"Now, you have this motivational guy who seems confident when he's on television," Odums shared. "I wasn't listening to what was coming out of my mouth or what I was writing. And here, I found myself about to really end everything.”

Thankfully, a phone call at the right time from his mother stopped him.  

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“My mom said, ‘You know what, I need you to come to Texas,'" he recounted. "She said, ‘I need you to come buy a one-way ticket and put everything on hold.'"

Once at his mother's home in Texas, Odums said things began to fall into place.

"Once I got there, and once I started working with a therapy group there, things started clicking," he told French. "I started to tap into that healing. And one thing that I discovered is that for so many years, I was stuck in the little boy.”

Childhood abuse

Credit: Coach LaMonte

At the age of 5, Odums was sexually abused by a male relative. 

"I can still remember what I was wearing, and where it took place when the event first happened," Odums recalled. 

The abuse continued for years. 

"But at the same time, I was a little boy that had a dream," Odums said. "So I was finding myself trying to balance the two."

The experience impacted the rest of his life.

“It really transitioned into anger and depression, and anxiety and so many things that I would tell my family even as I got older ... something isn't right. Even the way that I process things. I'm just having these random episodes of just crying for no reason. I'm angry for no reason. And I was truly getting lost in me.” Odums said.

RELATED: Father of 11-year-old girl who died by suicide hopes her story will save others

He didn't tell anyone until his 18th birthday when he finally felt strong enough to share what he went through to his mom. She asked why he didn't say anything sooner.

"I believe that there are so many men that have walked through what I've walked through, and, because we're men, because we're supposed to be strong, because, you know, we were told not to cry not to show emotion, we're also in a position where we don't talk about the things that we've walked through," Odums explained. 

RELATED: WATCH: Mental health help important amid COVID-19 pandemic

Odums decided in that moment that instead of staying silent about his experience, he would make it part of his story.

Homeless in Charlotte

Credit: Coach LaMonte

In his first year in Charlotte, while on television, his family was homeless. 

“I perfected wearing this mask," he explained. "When the cameras came on, I was smiling, upbeat, jovial, I'm like, ‘Yeah, you can do this!’ When the cameras were off. I would get in the car, and I would literally break down crying."

RELATED: Nonprofits team up to serve Charlotte-area children facing homelessness

This wasn’t the first time Odums struggled with thoughts of suicide.

“I would say it really hit in 1991," Odums recalled. "They called the ambulance. I'm in the hospital, and they're pumping my stomach. And I just knew then that though I didn't die - and I knew I wanted to die - I knew that this wasn't the end of my pain."

Credit: WCNC
WCNC Charlotte's Sarah French talking with Coach LaMonte.

French asked, “And you still didn't try to seek out help. Why?”

RELATED: Charlotte mom who survived 3 suicide attempts, wrote a children's book, teaching kids they are perfect and irreplaceable

Odums answered, “We really weren't talking about mental illness. And the stigma of sitting down with a therapist or psychiatrist or a psychologist, you were quickly labeled. You would just be called crazy. And unfortunately, that prevented so many people from seeking help. And that's one of the reasons why I became a coach because I wanted to tell people advice that I wish that someone would have told me.”

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Getting the help that's needed

If you or a loved one are facing thoughts of suicide or self-harm, there is help readily available. You can call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or chat with them online. There are also resources in North Carolina available here and in South Carolina available here. 

Coach LaMonte said he’s in a good place now and is getting the help he needed for so long. 

“Knowing that what I was dealing with all these years was being bipolar, and I believe so many people are scared of coming forward when they're dealing with some type of mental illness because they don't want to be labeled, and they don't want to experience shame and embarrassment,” Odums said. “I believe so many of us walk through these challenges. When you're in that moment, you are caught up with today and the past. You're not thinking about the future. You're not thinking about what's going to come and what you can experience.”

RELATED: Doctors declare national state of emergency for kids' mental health

Odums continued, “I literally see myself on the other side of the camera with everybody else. I'm speaking to Odums now when before, I was ignoring him, but now, I hear him. His voice is ringing back to me, and it's constantly reminding me that we can do this.”

Credit: WCNC

Flashpoint is a weekly in-depth look at politics in Charlotte, North Carolina, South Carolina, and beyond with host Ben Thompson. Listen to the podcast weekly.
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Contact Sarah French at Sarah@wcnc.com and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can see Coach LaMonte in his YouDay segments on weekdays at 4 p.m. and on weekend mornings.

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