By Mick Holien
You may have heard on the news that Tyler Hilinski, the presumptive starting quarterback for Washington State, was found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound earlier this week.
The death of a rising star has not only prompted shock and dismay from teammates and prominent former Cougar signal callers, but reaction from the NCAA’s chief medical officer and a shocking on-air dissertation from a Spokane television sports anchor.
My friend Keith Osso of KXLY Television told viewers during a segment the night after the death of Hilinski that while he didn’t know the athlete personally other than watching him play and covering an occasional news conference he shared what is perceived as the depression that drove Hilinski to leave behind a suicide note prior to shooting himself.
“The loudest person with the biggest smile (often) is hurting the most,” said Osso, while admitting on the set to his news team that he has suffered from depression for more than a decade.
The sideline reporter for Eastern Washington University football, Osso is a Spokane native who started at KXLY in 2003 and also co-anchored a popular afternoon radio show until last year.
Jovial and popular Osso could usually be seen sporting a wide smile accompanying his upbeat personality.
“You can’t always see the pain in other people,” he said, “but you can always tell them how much they mean to you.”
His on-air explanation drew strong support on several pages of social media.
“Never would have guessed you had the battle and none would think I do as well,” wrote Cory.
“I appreciate you’re your honesty and candor,” added Elizabeth.
Seemingly with some of the best days of his life in front him in taking over the quarterback slot, outwardly Hilinski was in a good place in his life.
As a redshirt sophomore in relief of Luke Falk last season Hilinski passed for 1,176 yards while completing better than 70 percent of his pass attempts
“The missing piece here is why,” Pullman Police Chief Gary Jenkins told ESPN and the Hilinski family in California said they were in “complete shock and disarray” over his death.
Unfortunately depression and suicide in college students is not unusual.
National Data on Campus Suicide and Depression, obtained by the sports magazine, said one of every dozen college students make a suicide plan and 7.5 per 100,000 carry it out.
Former Cougar quarterback Ryan Leaf of Great Falls, who certainly has battled his share of addiction and depression after being the No 2 pick in the 1998 NFL draft.
Clean now for a few years, he told the New York Post at this stage of his life he is focused on helping others with similar struggles.
“Every human life is precious,” wishing he had been able to look into Hilinsky’s eyes and say “Tyler I’m just like you and I have been there and there is hope, then hugged him and never let him go.”
In the Daily Caller, another former Cougar QB, Drew Bledsoe, had an even more personal message since Hilinski mentored his son.
“As men we have to learn to TALK about how we are feeling,” said Bledsoe.
“Reaching out for help when we need it is not a sign of weakness,” he said “Asking for help is the ultimate sign of STRENGTH.”
Hilinski’s death not only has increased the public’s perception of the deep problem of depression but brought publicity of available resources.
A 2016 story in the Bismark Tribune said the prevalence of suicidal behavior has made Montana one of the worst suicide states for generations.
But help is readily available and just a phone call away
The Montana Warm Line is a non-crisis line for anyone who just wants to talk to a peer about their problems.
The number is 877-688-3377 and while not a crisis line can be quickly linked in such a situation.
The nationwide 24/7 Lifetime Chat line also is available by calling 1-800-273-8255.