When athletes battle mental health struggles alone, the consequences can be disastrous.
Tyler Hilinski, a Washingston State quarterback took his own life in January 2018, only four months after an incredible triple-overtime victory over Boise State.
Hilinski’s death started a crucial conversation at Boise State: what more could they do for college athletes who struggled with mental illness?
Boise State hired Stephanie Donaldson, a local professional counselor to be the first full-time mental health expert for the athletics department.
“No one denies here in athletics there’s a need, we’re trying to foster a culture where it’s OK to talk, [and] reduce that stigma,” Donaldson said to the Idaho Statesman.
Donaldson seems to be an excellent fit for the position, not only because of her counseling experience but because she knows the pressures of college athletics from her days as a Division I swimmer for Pepperdine University.
We wrote about this recently, how more men in media and sports are speaking up about their mental health. Hopefully as Boise State develops this resource, other college programs will do the same.
“One thing about this position is that once athletes are open to discuss it, it’s in their nature to be motivated to want to change and to improve,” Donaldson said. “… As more and more athletes are speaking up, I think it trickles down and affects every level.”
I think this is wonderful work on Boise State’s part. Go team!