Colbert: Life, death and football |

Colbert: Life, death and football

Austin Colbert
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times

You smile. You laugh. You pretend.

Those who suffer from various forms of mental illness and depression play this game constantly, and it’s a game with no winners.

I bring this up because it’s something that can torment me, as well, and it’s especially weighed on my mind the past few days after the death of Matthew Snyder, the grandson of legendary Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder.

You see, I grew up a K-State fan and one of my fondest memories was playing catch on the turf field with Matt and his older brother, Tate, after a random KSU game back when I was in high school. Like any Wildcat fan, I idolized the Snyders growing up. The impact they had on my childhood can’t be measured.

Wednesday, Matt Snyder was found dead. Police are treating it as a suicide. He was 22.

This comes only a few days after Washington State University quarterback Tyler Hilinski was found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. Police said they found a suicide note. Hilinski was only 21 and had just started the Cougars’ bowl game last month.

Nothing about this is fun to write. But, as we live in a ski town, which are known to have some of the highest suicide rates anywhere, it needs to be discussed.

I won’t pretend to understand why either killed himself. We may never know. From the outside, it makes no sense. But as someone who often battles his own brain on a daily basis, I think it was important for me to say something. It’s not easy for me to admit my own sufferings, but if doing so helps anyone else, it’s an easy decision for me to open up.

It can be terrifying to talk to people about mental issues, because there is a stigma around it that makes you feel undesirable, unwanted, unneeded. So many people can put on the façade of happiness, but more people than care to admit suffer needlessly.

Considering my own problems — I blame loneliness, mostly — I wouldn’t make the best shrink, but I still wish I could have talked to Matt before he took his life. I’m not sure what I would have said, other than he’s not alone, although I know it can feel that way most of the time.

Too many people struggle in much the same way and don’t know how to ask for help. Too many people take their own lives because of that struggle.

Hilinski and Snyder will get the headlines because of football. But this has nothing to do with sports. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, there are 123 suicides per day. Chances are, 123 of those could have been prevented.

I don’t necessarily write this for those who struggle, but for those who don’t. It’s not your job to be the difference for those 123 people, but you can be.

Please, find somebody to hug today. Your best friend. Your co-worker. A random stranger. Sometimes, a simple hug can be the difference someone needs.

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