Skip to main content

How Clemson is training its coaches to monitor their players' mental health

Nearly six months into the aftermath, Tyler Hilinski's suicide continues to send shockwaves through the college sports establishment. As it should. Any suicide by a 21-year-old, in particular a 21-year-old quarterback of a Pac-12 school, bears further examination and self-reflection.

Last week, Sports Illustrated posted a long profile revealing Hilinski suffered from CTE. Despite that, Tyler's younger brother, Ryan, continues to play football; he's a South Carolina quarterback commit who participated in The Opening this week. “I just don’t give a f---. I don’t care," Ryan Hilinski told SI. "I love this sport. This is not what hurt him. I’m going to do everything that Tyler wanted to do with football."

With that as prologue, Clemson will send every single coach in its employ through its Tigers Together program, an initiative training faculty and staff to watch for suicide warning signs among a demographic that is tragically prone to such an action.

"We feel like that's going to be key for our coaches to break that stigma from their end to say, 'Hey, you talked to me about this, let's get you someone (to help). This is how we have this conversation, this is who I can refer you to,'" Clemson associate AD for student-athlete services and performance Natalie Honnen told the Charleston Post & Courier.

Suicide is the 10th-leading cause of death among the entire American population, but it's the No. 2 killer among people between ages 15 and 24, trailing only "unintentional injury." Now add in the troubling history with football players posthumously diagnosed with CTE and it's clear the vigilant urgency with which every professional who has college athletes in their care must approach this issue.

"Lack of sleep. Different behaviors. If they're usually upbeat and kind of seem a little bit down lately (that is a sign)," Honnen said. "A lot of times when performance starts going down, you'll kind of see the student struggling in the classroom at times. Those are kind of some areas where our coaches, they'll kind of refer to that point and sometimes it's really clear as a student says, 'Hey, I need some help. Who can I connect with to go from there?'"

Read the full piece here.