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Tyler Hilinski’s death sparks conversation about suicide on college campuses

KIRKLAND, Wash. — Nearly a week after Tyler Hilinski took his own life, the former WSU quarterback’s death has started a conversation on many college campuses.

Campus being a key word, according to Swedish Medical Psychiatrist Dr. Sasha Waring.

“There’s a couple large population studies that show for college-age students–that’s something like 18-22-year-olds–suicide is the second leading cause of death, after accidental death,” said Waring.

Waring says nearly three college students every day commit suicide in the U.S.

Students who he says are faced with any number of major stressors.

"There's a whole lot of stuff going on with kids who are leaving home. Some of it has to do with the age when you think about--called transitional age youth--really like adolescence becoming adults and the transition from teenage years to early adulthood," said Waring. "Not just the age, but the developmental stage in our society. That’s a time when those kids are leaving home for the first time and living independently."

He also says class and social status don't really matter.

"Depression can really affect everyone. Depression doesn't discriminate."

No matter who they are, or what they do.

UW alum and track star Norris Frederick knows the struggle firsthand.

"You can be the best student in the world and deal with it. You can be the best student athlete in the world and deal with it, it's all within the same scope," said Frederick.

The professional long jumper is one of the most decorated athletes in UW history and knows that the highest highs can also come with the lowest lows.

"I've definitely dealt with depression. When I was training for the 2012 Olympics there were times I had suicidal thoughts and I just didn’t think that I was strong enough to continue doing what I was doing and it all surrounded my sport," said Frederick. "You put this box, on this island and you're just by yourself and its super lonely. And as many people that may follow you on these social media platforms, or as many people that you know within this word--you seem very, very alone and its scary—it’s a dark place."

When things didn't go well for him on the track, it affected every other aspect of his life.

"When these emotions come about and you’re this super strong athlete that can lift a billion pounds but can't fight this emotion that's gnawing in the back of your mind, you become defenseless," said Frederick.

He admits--knowing you need help, and actually going to get it--are two very different things.

"You're in the paper whether you’ve had the best performance athletically or had the worst performance athletically and you never want to be that dude that is spotted walking into that building knowing what that building represents," said Frederick, referring to mental health facilities.

This part of why he reached out for help off-campus and encourages anyone who's struggling--to speak up, somewhere.

"They may not be feeling what you're feeling right now, but they’ve felt what you're feeling at this point. They’ve been there," said Frederick. "It doesn’t make you a stronger person to internalize it and then that be the final straw. It makes you a stronger person to open up and say something about it."