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Hilinksi’s Hope announces merger with NCAA Sports Science Institute to promote mental health awareness

WSU freshman Meghan Henry distributes "3" towels in honor of WSU quarterback Tyler Hilinski before the start of a college football game on Saturday, September 8, 2018, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

The foundation started by the family of former Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski announced a major partnership on Monday as it continues to put a lens on mental health awareness and destigimatizing mental illness.

“Hilinski’s Hope,” the nonprofit foundation launched by Mark and Kym Hilinski, has struck a partnership with the NCAA’s Sport Science Institute, the organization revealed Monday in a news release.

The announcement comes two days before the one-year anniversary of Tyler Hilinski’s suicide.

Family members, friends and teammates haven’t been able to pinpoint the reason the redshirt sophomore quarterback took his own life in an off-campus apartment on Jan. 16, 2018, but through “Hilinski’s Hope,” the player’s immediate family – mother Kym, father Mark and brothers Kelly and Ryan – vowed to “keep Tyler’s memory alive and generate the funding necessary to support programs that will help destigmatize mental illness” according to the foundation’s website.

“He was a bright, spirited, and caring soul,” Mark and Kym Hilinski said in the release. “We had no idea he was suffering. Neither did his two brothers, his family, his closest friends, teammates or coaches.”

The Hilinskis are expanding upon their mission statement with the NCAA partnership. The merger’s objective is to “encourage evidence-based approaches to bolster mental wellness support for NCAA student-athletes,” according to the press release.

Dr. Brian Hainline, the NCAA’s chief medical officer, said the partnership will “identify effective strategies for increasing the adoption and implementation of best practices for understanding and supporting student-athlete mental wellness at all NCAA member institutions.”

According to Hainline, an assembly of 25 mental health, medical, higher education and sports medicine organizations have published a report detailing those strategies, the “Inter-Association Consensus Document: Best Practices for Understanding and Supporting Student-Athlete Mental Wellness.”

Since its inception, Hilinski’s Hope has raised more than $300,000 in donations. The foundation has also sponsored mental health training at several universities, including the bystander intervention program “Step UP!” and the mental health curriculum “Behind Happy Faces.”