Tyler Talk shows importance of athlete mental health

(Photo Credit: The Guardian)

Kristen Cerney

News Writer

“You don’t need a tragedy to ask for help,” said Mark Hilinski.

Mark and Kym Hilinski were at Benedictine to talk about their son, who committed suicide on Jan. 16, 2018, while at Washington State University.

Benedictine students, many of which are student-athletes, gathered on Friday to hear the Hilinski’s tell their son’s story and advocate for the mental health of student-athletes. They founded the Hilinski’s Hope Foundation, a non-profit organization in 2018 to honor their son, Tyler, and to spread awareness of the well-being of student-athletes, according to the Hilinski’s Hope website.

“It’s never an athlete smiling in his uniform,” said Mark Hilinski. “That’s not the face of mental health issues.”

Tyler Hilinski was a bright kid who cared deeply for everybody in his life. He was passionate about sports from the moment he could play them, but he especially loved football. He was the quarterback on Washington State’s football team at the time of his passing.

“If this can happen to Tyler, it can happen to any of us,” said Mark Hilinski.

The Hilinski’s Hope Foundation’s mission is ‘to educate, advocate, and eliminate’ stigma related to mental illness, according to their website. They want student-athletes to know that they are not alone, there is always a good reason to seek help and there are resources for them to do so. They will continue to share Tyler’s story to honor his life and help student-athletes realize there is help.

“I’m not going to let him die twice,” said Kym Hilinski. “I will keep sharing his story,”

The Hilinski’s wish is that students know that suicide is never the answer, even if that means they need open up to somebody in order to get help. They wanted students to know their worth, and understand that they still have the rest of their life ahead of them.

“Letting us know that we’re more than our sport really hit home,” said a student at Benedictine who preferred to remain anonymous.

The Hilinskis believe that the stigma behind mental illness is what led Tyler to never seek help. They fight to end the stigma behind mental health out of love for their own son, and their love for every other student-athlete, according to the Hilinski Hope Foundation website.

“Athletes deserve real, professional help,” said Jason Querubin, a student at Benedictine. “Athletes are expected to be mentally tough, but ultimately, they are human, and they can hurt too,”

Their main goal in their talk is to tell anybody struggling to reach out to somebody, even if they feel like they’re not deserving of help. The Hilinskis hope that those struggling will tell someone, as they would never want suicide to affect anybody else.

“You all matter so much in your lives. I don’t want to lose another Tyler,” said Kym Hilinski.

If you feel like you need support, please call (630)829-1800 or visit the counseling center at 116 Krasa.