News Article Details

OPINION: Reducing the stigma of mental illness

Moscow-Pullman Daily News - 1/23/2018

Jan. 23--The Washington State University community was shocked last week by the suicide of Tyler Hilinski, a 21-year-old sophomore and the presumed starting quarterback for the Cougars' 2018 season, whose body was found, alongside a rifle and a note, by police in his off-campus apartment.

Hilinski seemed like the last person anyone would suspect of struggling with depression.

His coach, Mike Leach, described him as "one of the most optimistic guys on Earth." Former teammate Tavares Martin Jr. told the Daily News that Hilinski always lightened the mood at practice, saying, "That's what I liked about him. He was positive in every negative situation." Former WSU quarterback Jack Thompson also expressed shock, telling the Daily News that, "I just hurt for a young man who by all appearances seemed to have the world by the tail."

There are still no answers to why Hilinski took his life, but his case is not as unique as it sounds. Dr. Brian Hainline, the NCAA's chief medical officer, said suicides among student athletes follow the same statistics for average college students -- one out of every 12 students make a plan to kill themselves and 7.5 per 100,000 succeed in the attempt, according to National Data on Campus Suicide and Depression.

Though colleges throughout the country are promoting student awareness of depression and suicide on campus, sometimes the issue isn't access to resources, but a willingness to use them.

Jay Guillermo, a former Clemson football player, told The Associated Press he struggled with admitting he needed help before ultimately taking a year off to be treated for depression.

"Especially a male athlete, and a football player in such a physical, rough sport, you never want to be the guy that's having to admit that something's wrong," Guillermo said.

While strides have been made to reduce the stigma of mental illness in the past few decades, there is still more work to be done. Anyone can develop depression -- even the people with the brightest smiles and the most success.

It's our job as a community to be open about our struggles, to be willing to ask for help and to provide support for those who may need it. No one can read minds, but creating an environment where people feel comfortable enough to seek help can make all the difference.


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