I don’t know anything about college football, and I don’t know anything about Tyler Hilinski, save for one very important detail.

Tyler Hilinkski is dead.

The Washington State quarterback was found dead in his apartment Tuesday, January 16, with a rifle and a suicide note. The contents of that note have not been released to the public, and authorities are now trying to piece together why the 21-year-old athlete apparently took his own life.

Hilinski backed up starting quarterback Luke Falk this season and was the presumptive starter heading into his junior year. This fact alone would seem to indicate Hilinski’s fortunes were trending upward, making his apparent suicide even more shocking. In a statement, his family described him as “the kid that put a smile on everybody’s face.”

For what little I know of Hilinski’s collegiate football career, I know even less about him personally. Did he have a girlfriend? Was he a good student? Was he happy playing football? These are all questions those close to Hilinski would know, but I obviously do not. I can almost guarantee, though, that I know one thing about Tyler Hilinski’s final moments on this earth.

He heard The Voice.

I’m sure you’ve heard it before, although it’s intensity may differ from person to person. The Voice will tell you there is no hope in your situation. The Voice will tell you there is no way out of the predicament you are in. The Voice will tell you no one cares about you. The Voice will tell you the world would be a better place without you in it. Some of us are able to drown it out, but to others it is all-encompassing. The Voice will tell you everything, in fact, except the most important thing about itself.

The Voice is a liar.

Usually, if they are able to stop and really think for a moment, a person can present enough arguments contrary to what The Voice is saying to nullify its effects. There is hope, and there is always a way out, even if that might not look like a pleasant resolution. People do care, and the world would be forever altered without your presence in it. These words are easy for me to sit here and type right now. They are much more difficult to conjure up when The Voice is screaming in my ear.

You may be wondering why it took me over a week to write anything about Hilinski’s death. Well, that’s another thing about The Voice; it does not enjoy being discussed. The Voice likes to operate under the radar, and it strives to convince everyone it speaks to that it’s not really worth talking about. While The Voice tries to convince you it is the only authority worth trusting, it will also urge you to keep what it says a secret.

The reason The Voice is so secretive is because it loses its power when it is exposed. The more The Voice is talked about, the more it makes less and less sense. Friends, family, counselors, and virtually anyone with an ear willing to listen compassionately can begin to poke holes in its logic. The Voice is powerful and not easily ignored, but it can be weakened. For some, its presence is barely an issue at all.

If The Voice is plaguing you, tell someone. Even if you feel as if what you are saying is the worst possible thing imaginable, keep pouring it out. Make The Voice hurt. Fight the lie. In the end, The Voice may even sound more like a whisper. Keep battling it, though, because The Voice also does not like to lose. It is relentless in its efforts to come out on top.

I’d like to conclude with a quote from Falk. He arrived in Alabama for the Senior Bowl yesterday wearing his fallen teammate’s old number and spoke briefly about why The Voice is something that cannot be ignored.

We really want Tyler to be remembered and this to be talked about. I mean, when suicide is the leading cause of death of men from 18 to 45 years old, it should be talked about. And we should do something about it. I feel like at times we feel like we can’t express our emotions because we’re in a masculine sport. And him being a quarterback, people look up to you as a leader, so he felt like he really probably couldn’t talk to anybody. You know, we gotta change some of that stuff. We gotta have resources and not have any more stigma on people going through that.

 

 

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