by Daniel Fappiano
Tyler Hilinski seemed to have everything a college athlete could want. As a sophomore, the Washington State quarterback had the opportunity to start the team’s bowl game against Michigan State. Junior year, he was poised to be the unquestioned starter for the Cougars in 2018.
However, those plans never came to fruition. On Jan. 17, Hilinski was found dead in his apartment. According to the Whitman County Coroner’s Office, Hilinski died from a self-inflicted gun shot wound to the head. Police also found a suicide note beside him.
As the world mourns his unfortunate loss, most media outlets address Hilinski simply as Washington State’s former quarterback. However, he’s more than that; he was a troubled 21-year-old who felt lost in a world of confusion.
Washington State plays on the West Coast, and because of this, I never had an opportunity to watch him play. However, as mental health and suicide awareness become more mainstream, Hilinski’s story hits me the hardest.
I’ll never be a college quarterback, but I have been a 21-year-old kid who has had thoughts of depression, anxiety, self-doubt and, at times, suicide. Hilinski reminds me that even if it seems you have it all, none of that matters if you don’t have yourself.
Hilinski’s passing reminds me to reach out, not just for myself, but for others. If you ever see someone you love suffering from these traits, don’t be afraid to help them, even if it’s a simple text or phone call to make sure they’re doing alright. It could be the difference between life and death.
Dealing with my own issues, my biggest problem was exactly that. I was afraid to reach out, as I was afraid I would be made fun of—that no one would take me seriously. Imagine what the leader of a football team must be thinking.
Mental health awareness continues to grow stronger, and I’m grateful for that. More and more people today are starting to feel more comfortable sharing their problems and are seeking help.
In Hilinski, I see myself: a scared kid who was afraid to tell anyone about his feelings. I wish Hilinski was still here so I could tell him it’s okay to tell others how you feel. Going forward, all I ask is that you help one another, continue to break the stigma and simply reach out.
Tyler Hilinski’s death is unfortunate, as the world lost a talented 21-year-old who was beloved by his teammates and peers. He reminds me to always make sure my loved ones are okay, and you should, too. If you’re ever feeling down, don’t be afraid to reach out. You’re worth it.
If you or someone you know are suffering, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.