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What the loss of Tyler Hilinski teaches us about the vital, ongoing conversation around suicide

On Tuesday, January 16, Tyler Hilinski, the starting quarterback for the Washington State Cougars football team, lost his life to suicide. His death leaves family, teammates, classmates, and many other members of the community in a state of deep pain.

Tyler was not someone most would have imagined was dealing with a behavioral health issue. He was young, intelligent, and a star Division-1 athlete. These facts underscore a major misconception about suicide, and give additional reason to continue public discussion on this issue.

Data show the risk of suicide is not affected by things like social standing, education, or age. There are multiple risk factors (economic, familial, mental health, etc.) that simply don’t always show up in obvious ways. Although Tyler’s death is a high-profile tragedy, unfortunately he represents thousands of people who are at risk. Many of these individuals stay hidden because of misconception, stigma, or lack of resources.

The most vital takeaway should be that suicide is preventable. It starts with directing the conversation surrounding the issue toward recognizing suicide as a widespread public health issue. This involves engaging both everyday citizens as well as those within the health and human services fields so the community itself is better constructed to prevent and intervene.

If you work in health and human services, we encourage you to continue raising your voice to educate and elevate the conversation around suicide prevention. The public at large also can help by learning about the warning signs of suicide, discussing the topic with family and friends, and recognizing anyone can be at risk for suicide.

A valuable source of information is the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (, 1-800-273-8255), a free and confidential resource for people at risk as well as those interested in helping.

(Behavioral Health,Child and Youth Services)

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