The Mark and Kym Hilinski who will appear on Outside the Lines on Friday (SportsCenter on ESPN at noon ET) have made a long journey since I profiled them in September 2018. They continue to grieve Tyler, their middle son, the Washington State quarterback who died by suicide in January of that year. But their grief is no longer so raw, the pain and hurt and bewilderment no longer so plain on their faces. Time, nature’s plastic surgery, is performing its healing and cosmetic tasks.
They are healing; they never will be healed. But time is undefeated, relentless in its insistence that life continue, no matter what or whom we have lost. The Hilinskis didn’t just move on. They moved — from Orange County to South Carolina, three time zones and 2,400 miles. It sounds hollow to say they moved there to watch their youngest son, Ryan, play quarterback for the University of South Carolina. They moved together, as a family — Mark, Kym and their son Kelly — to support Ryan. But that support runs in both directions. The best tonic for the four of them is to remain physically close.
ESPN Senior Writer
Photo; AP Photo/Chris Carlson
May 1, 2020
We think about all of you everyday and hope you are staying safe, healthy, and happy during these times of physical distancing and stay at home orders. We miss traveling to schools to be with students and student-athletes but we have confidence that our Hilinski’s Hope trainings will start-up again soon.
In the meantime, H3H has been busy powering the “UNIT3D” podcast. A new resource for student-athletes, (and really it can help many of us) and how they can take care of their mental wellness during these times of uncertainty. We’re grateful to have Ole Miss Sports Psychologist Dr. Josie Nicholson host these podcasts and appreciate all the mental health professionals from universities all over the country who have joined in to lend their knowledge and passion for helping others and their mental wellness. You can find “UNIT3D” on our website HilinskisHope.org, Spotify, iTunes, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. We’re honored that the NCAA Sports Science Institute has included “UNIT3D” as a resource on their website as well.
We have also recently partnered with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and will be working with them to provide mental health support and education in high schools. NAMI is doing great work and we believe this partnership will continue to contribute to our efforts to effect change by bringing awareness to and reducing the stigma attached to mental illness.
May is a special month, for many reasons. May 10: Mother’s Day. Unfortunately, a zoom call won’t capture the same emotions as a hug and being physically with the person we call mom. Our wish is for all families to be with each other that day and if you can’t we hope all the memories of past Mother’s Days will carry you through. May 26: Tyler’s birthday. Ty would have turned 24. I can close my eyes and see him: a bit more handsome, thicker, and the same smile lines around his eyes, those would have grown too. We think Tyler would have been glued to the TV watching his friends get drafted or signed as free agents and probably hoping his name would have been called too.
April 16, 2020
It is easy to try to take on mental health issues by yourself, but this isn’t the best way to go through life.
DANIELLE DENNEHY, Evergreen Columnist
April 8, 2020
In the last decade mental health has gone from a taboo to something heavily discussed in pop culture and the media. This rise in awareness for other people’s mental well-being has sparked a conversation about how we should handle the subject.
The important part of this conversation is distinguishing between one’s mental health and well being, and what would be considered a mental illness. For everyone there are things that may cause a shift in your mental well-being — something like an international pandemic maybe — but it is important to recognize that this probably won’t cause a long-term mental illness. The dip in mental health will eventually return to balance, though you may have been very anxious or depressed for a period and needed to practice better self care.
“There’s a difference between that mental toughness and struggling with your mental health,” Kym Hilinski, one of the founders of Hilinski’s Hope Foundation, said. “We just want all students to know that they are not weak if they ask for help, if they talk about their emotions. It takes strength to do that.”
The Hilinski’s Hope foundation strives to bring awareness to mental illnesses and destigmatize the conversation around mental health. A big part of their participation on college campuses is bringing the Step Up program to college sports teams. This program teaches players how to look out for changes in behavior from one another that may indicate a need for support. They also try to provide ways to start these conversations in a comfortable way.
Mental illnesses are a touchy subject, as for some this is the way they identify a long-term struggle with mental health problems. The way we initiate conversations about these topics can greatly affect the way someone else reacts to it. In this time of overarching anxiety and inherent reclusive behavior, it’s essential to have lighthearted check-ins with the people you care about regarding their — and your — mental well-being.
Curtis Cohen, the 2020 ASWSU President, made mental health a key element in his campaign. He said their platform for mental health support reform on campus centers around the introduction of a campaign partnered with the 7 Cups program. 7 Cups is an app and website committed to making change in the counseling industry by providing a more open form of communication and providing general training for peer to peer support.
Photo Credit: NATALIE BLAKE
March 30, 2020
COLUMBIA, SC — ESPN’s Jen Lada’s E:60 with South Carolina quarterback Ryan Hilinski and his family in ‘Hilinski’s Hope’ has been nominated for a national Sports Emmy.
‘Hilinski’s Hope’ is one of five nominees for the category “Outstanding Short Sports Documentary.” Four of the five nominations are E:60’s.
“(I’m) excited and honored to have Hilinski’s Hope up for this,” wrote Ryan in a Twitter post about the announcement. “All for you TY.”
March 30, 2020
Staying Mentally Healthy
This past week was marked on millions of calendars as the start of March Madness. Some make the pilgrimage to Las Vegas to watch 32 games in 48 hours, others travel alongside their alma mater to the stadium housing the hardwood classic, countless others fill out their brackets and tune in online while pretending to get some work done.
Every year, we watch for the story of the underdog who upsets Goliath, the underrated kid passed up by the big conferences enacting revenge, and the Cinderella team without a superstar who shuts down the next top draft pick. Amidst broken brackets, cut down nets, and tears of triumph and defeat, we get to feel part of the history these kids write as they fulfill the dreams they’ve been dreaming since they took their first steps.
Transitions are always tough as the NCAA reminds us that the vast majority of collegiate athletes “go pro in something other than sports.” However, this year, many student athletes from high school to college played their last game without any fanfare or closure. In fact, they didn’t even know they were playing their last game. The sport they’ve played every day for their entire life that formed a critical part of their identity, is now over and they question, what’s next?