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“Hilinskis Hope” non-profit discusses mental health with CMU student athletes

CMU student athletes stand with Mark and Kym Hilinski following their "Tyler Talk" on Jan 26.
Photo provided by CMU Athletics.
CMU student athletes stand with Mark and Kym Hilinski following their "Tyler Talk" on Jan 26.

Mark and Kym Hilinski lost their son Tyler, a former college football star, to suicide in 2018. Now, the couple runs the non-profit “Hilinskis Hope” in Tyler's name.

They've given their “Tyler Talk” nearly 150 times at different universities across the country. Last week, the Hilinskis shared Tyler's story with CMU athletes.

“We thought the best thing for us was to form this foundation, to honor Tyler and really to support the mental health of our student athletes, because there's really not enough support out there for them," Kym Hilinski said. "They're under a lot of pressure. And we think that Tyler was feeling that pressure.” 

She said many student athletes struggle in silence while dealing with depression, performance anxiety, and negativity on social media.

After giving their “Tyler Talks”, the Hilinskis said some students become more open to talking about their struggles with mental health. Kym Hilinski said they want to help those students take that first step.

"Share Tyler's story," she said. "Use Tyler's story to break that ice, and then share your story and how you're struggling."

During their discussions, the Hilinskis urge teammates to form groups of three in honor of Tyler's jersey number.

They mentioned the triads should check in on each other's mental health and well-being to help prevent another tragedy like Tyler's.

"The message we're always trying to tell them is don't wait for a tragedy," Mark Hilinski said. "If you feel like you're struggling, it's okay to talk about it."

Jill Harrington is a senior at CMU majoring in journalism and minoring in theatre and interpretation. Jill grew up in Novi, Michigan and started reporting for WCMU in summer 2022.