OLYMPIA – The apparent suicide of WSU football player Tyler Hilinski Tuesday tragically underscores the need for more programs to prevent suicide and improve mental health, members of a House committee said Wednesday.
“You see people that seem to be on top of the world,” Rep. Jeff Holy, R-Cheney, said. “The things that you don’t know, that have to be dealt with, the demons you hold, the pressures that have to be dealt with.”
The House Higher Education Committee had previously scheduled a vote on a bill that calls for the state Department of Health to set up a statewide resource for behavioral health and suicide prevention at all Washington postsecondary schools. It also would create a new program of Suicide Prevention in Higher Education grants and require all postsecondary institutions to report data on behavioral health and suicide on their campuses each year.
The vote came with “undeniably poignant timing,” said Holy, a bill co-sponsor and the committee’s ranking Republican. “It’s heartbreaking to have something like this to remind us of the necessity of this service.”
Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, the bill’s prime sponsor, agreed: “Our thoughts are with Tyler’s family and friends and the faculty and staff at WSU. We’re just deeply sorry.”
The committee approved the bill unanimously and sent it to the full House for consideration.
Earlier in the day, Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib, who presides over the Senate, asked for a moment of silence to mark Hilinski’s death shortly after the invocation that opens each daily session.
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