Wilmington Sharks hear from Hilinski’s Hope on student-athlete mental health

Tyler was a quarterback at Washington State when he took his own life.
Published: Jul. 23, 2023 at 6:37 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The Wilmington Sharks addressed mental health on Sunday, July 23, with the help of two of the biggest advocates for ending the stigma surrounding mental health issues, in college sports.

Mark and Kym Hilinski are two parents who lost their son Tyler in 2018 to suicide.

Tyler was a quarterback at Washington State when he took his own life.

Mark and Kym said they had no clue Tyler was even struggling, and in the aftermath of his death, they learned no one else did either.

While searching for answers after Tyler’s Passing, bracelets with the words “Hilinski’s Hope” became a message almost every college athlete would soon know thanks to Mark and Kym.

Mark and Kym travel nationwide to share Tyler’s story and remind young adults they are not alone in their feelings, and that help is always available.

The Hilinski’s refer to these motivational talks as “Tyler Talks.”

“In Tyler’s case, and why we think it’s so important to talk to the student-athletes, is because he was the kid that never talked, never asked, never told anybody who was struggling. One day he’s playing in a bowl game and two weeks later, he’s not with us any longer,” said Mark.

Mark and Kym say Tyler was one of the happiest kids they knew, and a face of struggle was not one he wore often.

“He loved being on the field. Sometimes he wouldn’t want to get out of the car for school or sometimes even at practice. But the minute he crossed over those lines, he seemed to have the best time. We never got any kind of feedback that Tyler was anything but happy excited and wonderful,” said Mark.

Tyler’s passing and the question marks surrounding what prompted him to shoot himself on Jan. 16, 2018, is what inspired Mark and Kym to spread awareness about mental health issues in college sports and to reduce the stigma associated with it.

It’s the positive that’s been brought upon the most tragic event of the Hilinski’s lives.

“Losing Tyler’s changed, simply everything for us,” said Mark. “If we can get up there and share our story about Tyler, it’s very emotional and difficult to do. Part of the reason for doing that is to show them it’s okay to talk about these subjects.”

The Hilinsky family also continues to make sure they are looking out for one another, especially with their youngest son Ryan, being a current college athlete and needing extra support.

“The worry is stronger, the worry is greater. It’s not the life that I would want anybody to have, but it is our truth and we’re trying to I guess, embrace it and you know, try to try to live and smile and be happy again because our two other sons deserve their mom and dad to be present. It’s just very difficult,” said Kym.

Everything the Hilinskis do now is to make sure the world doesn’t lose another Tyler.