Arizona Universities To Honor Hilinski, Address Mental Health

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The suicide death of former Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski rocked much of the sports world and inspired College Football Mental Health Week, an initiative sponsored by Hilinski’s Hope, a non-profit organization. lucrative. (Photo by Robert Johnson / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

PHOENIX – If your ankle hurts, say something. If you have a headache, you are expressing the pain you are feeling. When it comes to mental health, communication is not always clear. Hilinski’s Hope works to end this stigma.

Colleges and universities across the country, including the University of Arizona, the State of Arizona and Northern Arizona, launched College Football Mental Health Week last Saturday, an initiative sponsored by Hilinski’s Hope. The nonprofit was founded in 2018 following the suicide of former Washington state quarterback Tyler Hilinski.

That’s why ASU players will wear lime green ribbon helmet stickers with the number “3” in the middle in honor of Hilinski, when the Sun Devils face Stanford on Friday.

The second annual College Football Mental Health Week, which runs through Saturday, hopes to raise awareness of mental health issues on college campuses and provide resources for athletes and coaches. This coincides with Mental Illness Awareness Week, culminating with World Mental Health Day on October 10.

“It’s just something to show our commitment to mental health, not just for student athletes, but for all students,” said Christine Lombardi, director of operations for Hilinski’s Hope.

More than 70 schools have pledged to participate in the weeklong festivities, compared to 20 schools that participated last year. The activities involve athletes, coaches and staff discussing with each other their personal experiences and how to help their peers when they feel someone might be in distress.

“We want to normalize the conversation about mental health, just like we do about physical health,” Lombardi said. “The goal of mental health is that you not only seek help when you need it, but that you actively participate in your own mental well-being. “

There were almost 140 million media impressions of the event last year. Hilinski’s Hope is targeting 200 million media impressions this time around to have an even bigger impact.

“We are not alone, but there are so many agencies or foundations that are really championing this cause and individuals who are championing this cause in their own way,” Lombardi said. “We all work together and it’s kind of a phenomenon in the world today, and it gives hope for a lot of things in how we can work together.”

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The statistics are staggering. Suicide accounted for just over 7% of the 447 deaths among NCAA athletes over a nine-year period, according to an NCAA analysis in 2015. The suicide rate among male athletes is one point higher than that female athletes. Over 37% of college athletes who commit suicide are football players, the highest rate among NCAA athletes.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, with more than three-quarters of them being men. According to Athletes for Hope, a third of students experience mental health issues at some point during their study period. Among college athletes, only 10% seek help.

“Emotions, thoughts and feelings apply to everyone, I think this is really the corner that we have taken as a society in general,” said Dr Rachel Webb, deputy director of sports at the University of Arizona, Sports Psychology and Wellness. “When we can use weeks and platforms like this to educate and better understand what mental health is and how to take care of ourselves, more and more people are willing to take that path and get the help they need. “

The conversation around mental health took off this summer following revelations from U.S. Olympic gymnast Simone Biles, who publicly shared her mental health issues and the price tag for the pressure to perform. Being physically ready and mentally ready were two different things. Biles, along with professional tennis player Naomi Osaka, brought the topic of mental health to the world stage.

“This year, more than ever, the mental health of student-athletes has been in the spotlight and while the conversation about mental illness can be difficult and even uncomfortable at times, it is absolutely essential for health and well-being. of our student-athletes. Hilinski’s Hope co-founder Mark Hilinski said in a press release last week. “Throughout the past year we have continued to see the support of schools, fans, students and parents as they join us in the fight against mental illness and this is a major piece. puzzle that will help de-stigmatize mental illness and improve mental health. Resources.

In Tucson, the University of Arizona hosts a variety of events throughout the week to commemorate the event. Activities included yoga sessions, giveaways of smoothies and t-shirts, and appearances by guest speakers.

“We’re trying to engage only from a conversational standpoint, we want these initiatives to spark conversations about mental health and how we take care of ourselves,” Webb said. “We’re also using the week to show different ways of taking care of ourselves so it’s not just about de-stigmatizing and feeling more comfortable talking about mental health and wellness. “

Participating schools will act in different ways throughout the week. Most schools will wear helmet stickers. In addition, players, coaches and fans will also be holding three fingers skyward in the first game of the third quarter of their respective football matches.

While people have been more open to sharing their stories about mental health issues and a lot of progress has been made, there is still a lot of work to be done.

“I think it still takes a lot of education and understanding of how all aspects of someone’s life, the way we think with what we feel, the way we react to situations and what that we go through has a direct influence and impact on our general mental well-being, ”said Webb.

A simple conversation with a friend or sibling can be beneficial and potentially save a life.

“Be part of the noise that is created to normalize mental health and also speak up and say when you need help or if you are having a conversation,” Lombardi said. “The cloud of thunderous sounds or noises can begin with one person. “

The Arizona State No.22 hosts Stanford on Friday night in a prime-time showdown to open the Copper State College Football Mental Health Week contests. Arizona hosts UCLA and northern Arizona hosts southern Utah, both on Saturday.


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