NCAA Sports Science Institute partners with Hilinski's Hope to improve mental health screening in athletes

The NCAA Sports Science Institute announced Monday a partnership with Hilinski's Hope, the foundation set up last year in memory of Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski, to support the foundation's work to improve mental health screening and awareness among student-athletes.

The announcement comes two days short of the first anniversary of the death of Hilinski, who ended his life shortly after returning to the Pullman campus for spring semester. His death stunned everyone who knew him. Hilinski had given little indication that he was struggling.

Tyler's parents, Mark and Kym Hilinski, created the foundation shortly after his death. Hilinski's Hope, in its first year, worked with several athletic departments, including Washington State, Idaho, Eastern Washington and Colorado.

"The NCAA Sport Science Institute is proud to partner with Hilinski's Hope to 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," Dr. Brian Hainline, the NCAA chief medical officer, said in a news release.

The NCAA best practices are designed to increase "bystander awareness," allowing student-athletes, coaches and administrators to better interpret signs of deteriorating mental health.

"Kids and coaches who wanted to help didn't have the resources or training on what to do," Mark Hilinski said on Sunday, referring to his son. "We want to de-stigmatize it. If this is the stuff going on, let's give them the tools to deal with it."

Both partners believe they will gain from the synergy. The NCAA is officially recognizing the efficacy of the work of Hilinski's Hope, which has raised approximately $300,000 in donations and pledges, according to Mark Hilinski. He hopes the NCAA stamp of approval will turbocharge the foundation's fund-raising, allowing Hilinski's Hope to fund seminars at more universities.