In time of mourning, BSU wants Washington State students to know they aren’t alone

Courtesy of Sienna George

Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski’s suicide shook many, particularly college students.

After being absent from practice, Hilinski, 21, was found dead in his apartment Tuesday. The Washington State community held a vigil for him on Friday night.

The news was shocking and heartbreaking for people around the country. And even though she and her fellow students were almost 300 miles away, Sienna George, the president of the Associated Students of Boise State University, wanted to show support.

George is friends with Washington State’s student body president, Jordan Frost. After news of Hilinski’s death spread, George asked what she and her fellow students could do to help.

“... While we all experience life differently, spend our days differently, and have different lived experiences, [we] can sympathize deeply with loss, and empathize deeply with the pressures of student life in college,” George told the Statesman.

What followed was a powerful statement on behalf of the Boise State student body about mental health, mental well-being and the importance of reaching out for help.

“We can all do better in letting people know they matter, and we should. We should tell people when we notice that feeling flowing beneath our skin and deep within our hearts, because we never know when it’ll be too late, and we never know who needs us,” George wrote in the letter. “This is a reminder that you are never alone.”

But the efforts of Boise State students didn’t stop there. George and ASBSU started a Love Letters campaign in which students could pen notes to students at Washington State to offer support and stand in solidarity with them.

Courtesy of Sienna George

The letters ranged from words of encouragement – “Life is tough, but so are Cougs!” – to words of empowerment: “You are worthy, make your life a story.”

More than 200 letters have been collected and likely will be mailed to Pullman, Washington, on Monday, George said.

“I think just knowing that an entire community is with you, even if they’re miles away, is important,” George said. “To know that even if you’ve never even met the person writing the letters, there’s someone out there who believes in you, supports you and wants you to heal.”

Boise State and Washington State are rivals on the football field. In fact, it was Hilinski who led the Cougars to a historic comeback win in triple-overtime over the Broncos in September.

Courtesy of Sienna George

But at a time like this, none of that really matters, George said.

“We are all students off the field. We are all students with the innate ability to express compassion, share in joy and pain, and offer help,” she said. “We are all so interdependent and interconnected, and we each have experiences, wisdom and love that is unique to us as individuals, but that can be felt by all, and I feel deeply that it is our human responsibility to share that with others. We truly can, and may never know, the impact we have on those around us, but the job is to go on loving regardless.”

Though the time to write letters has passed, you still have a chance to reach out to the Washington State community. The ASBSU has set up a link to send thoughts and words of encouragement.

If you are interested in contributing, click here.

Michael Katz: 208-377-6444, @MichaelLKatz


Call the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.


▪ Talking about wanting to die.

▪ Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.

▪ Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.

▪ Talking about being a burden to others.

▪ Increasing use of alcohol or drugs.

▪ Acting anxious, agitated or recklessly.

▪ Sleeping too little or too much.

▪ Withdrawing or isolating themselves.

▪ Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.

▪ Extreme mood swings.


▪ Do not leave the person alone.

▪ Be direct. Talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide.

▪ Listen. Allow expressions of feelings. Accept the feelings.

▪ Be nonjudgmental. Don’t debate. Don’t lecture on the value of life.

▪ Don’t act shocked. This will put distance between you.

▪ Don’t be sworn to secrecy. Seek support.

▪ Offer hope that alternatives are available but do not offer glib reassurance.

▪ Take action. Remove means, such as guns or stockpiled pills.

▪ Get help by calling the hotline or visiting Suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

Source: Suicide Prevention Lifeline