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Ohio State Football Player Harry Miller Movingly Shares His Mental Health Journey

Mental health once again made the news recently when Harry Miller, a promising college football player from Ohio State, announced that he was medically retiring from the game due to his severe struggles with anxiety and depression, which were bad enough that the athlete was seriously considering suicide. 

Though Miller reports experiencing these dark feelings from the time that he was as young as age 8, the high pressures of life as an elite college athlete only exacerbated the issues. Besides balancing sports and an intense academic workload, Miller describes the pressures of the public nature of his position and being brutally criticized by followers of the sport for any missteps, with some of his teammates even having reported receiving death threats. 

Miller first publicly revealed his decision and described his struggles in a March 10 Twitter post, explaining that, prior to last year’s season, he had revealed to his coach Ryan Day that he intended to kill himself. 

Day, who has his own history of battling mental health issues, immediately referred Miller to counseling. After getting help, Miller tried throwing himself back into the game, this timewith scars on my wrists and throat,” he wrote. 

“They are hard to see, and they are easy to hide, but they sure do hurt. There was a dead man on the television set, but nobody knew it,” Miller describes. 

Harry’s mother, Kristina Miller has also spoken out about the terrifying nature of that period in an essay that appeared on the Today Show’s website.

The past eight months have been unequivocally the worst of our lives, filled with hope and then setbacks. It’s hard to breathe. It’s hard to sleep. It’s hard to concentrate. The crippling fear that my child won’t be there the next time I call or text for our daily check-in is terrifying,” 

Miller went on to describe feeling as if he would rather be dead than a coward, and uses his status as a 4.0 GPA engineering student to highlight the fact that pain does not discriminate, nor does it have “prerequisites.”

“A person like me, who supposedly has the entire world in front of them, can be fully prepared to give up the world entire. This is not an issue reserved for the far and away. It is in our homes. It is in our conversations. It is in the people we love,” Miller wrote.

But, because he was courageous enough to ask for help and was lucky enough to receive it, Miller was eventually able to rediscover his own self worth and to realize that stepping away from football was necessary to protect his life.

“I am a life preserved by the kindness that was offered to me by others when I could not produce kindness for myself.

I am okay.

There is help, always,” Miller’s post concluded.

This moving statement was followed up by an appearance on The Today Show on March 24, where Miller appeared visibly emotional and was similarly articulate about his mental health struggles. He described the importance of holding onto hope, even if it at first feels like only pretending. 

“And then one day you won’t have to, and you’ll be so glad that you did. And that’s the only advice I think I can muster,” he describes.

Miller also described his desire to pay his experiences forward and to help others who are facing similar struggles. He is working with Coach Day to figure out how he can still serve the sport he loves in some capacity, and Day has also spoken out about how proud he is of all the work Miller has done to fight his depression and that he ultimately found the strength to preserve his own well-being and step away from the game.

And the utter necessity of that step is tragically apparent in the recent suicide of Stanford soccer star Katie Meyer, as well as the suicides of other prominent college athletes like Cameron Burrell and Madison Holleran.

As well as the constant pressures of competition and the long, hard, hours or practice involved in their discipline, the no-pain no-gain mentality and need to be “strong” and “tough” associated with the sports world has also been implicated in the higher than average rate of mental health difficulties among the specific college athlete demographic, which is high enough that suicide is the third leading cause of death. 

But true strength is a thing that can take many forms besides the kind of brute physical force evident on a football field, a fact that Miller is now beginning to realize.  

“People have called me brave but to me it just felt like not dying and it felt like being honest…Maybe bravery is just being honest when it would be easier not to,” he reflects.

Yet because of its role in fighting the stigma that surrounds mental health issues and the example he has set for others, Miller’s honesty is indeed something that could be life-saving for those who follow in his footsteps. 

Kristina Miller also weighed in about the importance of loved ones of those who face mental health struggles being willing to step in and offer an empathetic ear rather than ignoring potential problems.  

“Don’t be afraid to have hard conversations. It’s OK to ask someone if they are sad, depressed or thinking about suicide or harming themselves — that conversation could make all the difference,” she wrote. 

And the lessons of prioritizing mental health above life’s other complications and practicalities, being willing to come forward and receive help, and being willing to have hard conversations with your loved ones are all also obviously applicable when it comes to substance addiction, another stigmatized mental health condition can have similar life and death stakes given the extremity of the nation’s overdose crisis as well as its association with suicidal ideation.

If you or someone you love is currently struggling with addiction and is ready to receive that help, Reco Intensive’s comprehensive addiction treatment program may be the best option that they have for finding their way back to a brighter future. To learn more, feel free to call us anytime at 844.955.3042 or to contact us online anytime here

Sources:

https://www.cleveland.com/osu/2022/03/former-ohio-state-football-lineman-harry-miller-tells-today-show-of-fans-criticism-and-threats-against-players.html

https://www.cleveland.com/osu/2022/03/ohio-states-harry-miller-medically-retires-from-football-citing-mental-health-struggle.html

https://twitter.com/h_miller76/status/1502014501624991747/photo/2

https://www.today.com/parents/essay/harry-miller-ohio-state-mom-rcna21029

https://www.elevenwarriors.com/ohio-state-football/2022/03/129991/ryan-day-proud-of-harry-miller-who-remains-part-of-our-family-after-retirement-from-ohio-state-football

https://www.today.com/health/health/former-ohio-st-football-player-delivers-powerful-message-anyone-strugg-rcna20822

https://wgxa.tv/news/local/reports-show-suicide-is-third-leading-cause-of-death-among-student-athletes

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