Trigger warnings for suicide and mental health issues. Please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 if you or someone you know is contemplating suicide. Tomorrow is a new day. You are worth it. You are so much more than your scars and your sorrows and the struggles inside your mind.
As I write this, tears stream down my face, and it's hard to breathe deep enough to let these words go.
On January 16th, after the rainy morning turned into a beautiful, sunny day on the Palouse, Tyler Hilinski was found dead in his apartment in Pullman, Washington. The cause of death?
It seems like every single time the news dies down, another young, college student's name is flashing across the headlines. Another suicide. Another tragedy. Another death with no rhyme or reason. Another call to action.
And then it happens again.
When is enough, enough? When will the world finally open its eyes and realize far too many beautiful souls are leaving this cruel world, unable to live with the pain they carry around inside themselves day in and day out. Nobody deserves to feel that hurt and alone and empty.
I did not know Tyler, personally, but many did. He has a family, friends, a team. He was described as outgoing, a bright personality, a compassionate friend. Nobody saw it coming. Nobody would have guessed. There were no "warning signs."
That's the thing though. Suicide does not descend from the sky with lightning strikes, crashes of thunder, and rain so heavy it floods the streets. No, suicide comes without warning. It comes in the middle of the day, just when the only trace of the morning's rainstorm is the puddles scattered across campus, the sun reflecting blindingly off the glassy surfaces as students walk to class, completely unaware of the end of something beautiful.
Suicide is not this phenomenon that only happens to the few. On an average day, 100 people complete suicide attempts. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S.
Think you don't know anyone who has attempted suicide? You're probably wrong. For every suicide, there are ten failed attempts.
Did you know that anywhere from 30%-70% of individuals who have completed suicide suffer from depression?
In high school, one of my dear friends attempted suicide. Many of my friends live with mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and major depressive disorder, to name only a few. I, myself, have depression and social anxiety.
Suicide can happen to anyone.
And that is, perhaps, the most terrifying part of it all.
There are no "real" indicators of if or when it is going to happen.
There is no "watchlist" of all those individuals who need help and who cannot get it or of those who've tried and not received the help they sorely need.
There is no one who decides who it will happen to next.
It could be anyone.
I didn't know Tyler, but there is absolutely no guarantee that the next victim of suicide on this campus will not be a familiar face I would do anything to see one last time.
We have to stop stigmatizing mental illnesses.
The societal pressures to conform to traditional roles, the standards shoved onto us from birth, the lack of empathy granted unto one another — it has to end.
Let people cry. They aren't weak, they are strong.
Encourage others to seek help. Medication and therapy are incredible, and there is nothing weak in asking for help. Seeking mental health help is the bravest thing you can do, in all honesty. It is terrifying to be so vulnerable, but oh-so-worth it.
Take a break. We all push ourselves far too hard in this world. You need to take care of yourself first sometimes.
Do not devalue your struggles. Everyone has faced adversity in one form or another — nobody's hardships are "better" or more important than another's.
It is not your fault. Your mental illness is not your fault. None of this is your fault.
When will we have had enough?
When will we finally stop and do something about suicide prevention and mental health awareness? When will we take a step back to simply look around and ask someone how they are really doing? When will we realize it is only a matter of time before we have to bury another loved one?
When will we stop and finally realize our student-athletes are kids, too? I am not putting blame on the WSU Athletic Department, that is not my intention at all. What I am saying, though, is that maybe we need to realize that though these phenomenal athletes are working to make it in the big leagues after WSU, they need to be taken care of as students and as people, first and foremost. The pressures of being a star athlete in a competitive program cannot be overlooked anymore.
When will WSU, and schools all across the country and the world, realize that mental health needs to take priority? This year, WSU made the devastating decisions to reduce the number of "free" (yet, still paid through via mandatory student fees) clinic visits to not only the general Health and Wellness Services clinic, but also to Counseling and Psychological Services. Administration, explain to me how these are the budget cuts we need to be making? As a college student, I cannot afford $155 or more each visit I need to make at the clinics. Are you telling me my health, mental or physical, is not important to you anymore?
Would better programs for student-athletes to receive mental health care and check-ins saved Tyler? Would encouraging and allowing students to utilize the services on-campus for therapy, treatment, diagnosis, and appointments with licensed practitioners have saved Tyler? Would putting on more programs and inviting more speakers to advocate for mental health and seeking help have saved Tyler?
Who knows. Anyone thing could have, and any one thing could have failed Tyler like we all have today by not putting an end to the anti-mental health stance our world has put up as a wall to shield us from the vulnerability it reveals underneath us all.
None of us, none of you, are to blame for Tyler's death. There is nothing we can do but move forward, carrying his legacy and his memory with us wherever we go.
The truth — it is too late for Tyler and for the thousands of other 18-25-year-olds who have completed suicide attempts in the last year alone.
It is not too late to save someone else.
Everybody wants to save the world, right? Here's your chance.