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Tackling the Topic of Suicide & Mental Health in Student-Athletes

Annual breakfast brings community leaders and partners together for discussion on suicide prevention – and to announce new project aimed at training coaches

On Thursday, May 16th, Mental Health Partners (MHP) and Buffs4Life – a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting University of Colorado student-athlete alumnicohosted a Community Breakfast, presented by our longtime partners Elevations Credit Union. The Breakfast took place at the Touchdown Club at Folsom Field in Boulder a fitting location for the morning’s topic: “Shoulder-to-Shoulder to Help Prevent Suicide.” 

Honored guests in attendance included the Commissioner of the Behavioral Health Administration and a member of Governor Polis’ cabinet, a state legislator, two Boulder County Commissioners, Boulder County’s District Attorney, elected officials from Broomfield, several representatives from state government, a key staff member from the Chancellors office at CU-Boulder and several CU staff members, the head of CU Athletics, several student-athletes, a former Olympian, past Mental Health Partners CEOs, and many other community leaders and partners.   

Keynote speaker: Kate Fagan 

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Pictured above, keynote speaker Kate Fagan (center) stands with Mental Health Partners' co-CEOs Jen Leosz (left) and Dixie Casford (right). 

Kate Fagan is an Emmy award-winning journalist, having spent seven years as a columnist and feature writer for espnW,, and ESPN The Magazine. She was also a regular panelist on ESPN's Around the Horn and host of Outside the Lines.  

Kate is the author of the No. 1 New York Times bestselling book What Made Maddy Run and 4 other books, including a new book coming out in 2025. She was recently inducted into the University of Colorado Athletic Hall of Honor for being one of the country’s premier three-point specialists and free throw shooters in collegiate women’s basketball. 

During the Breakfast, Kate spoke about Maddison Holleran, whose story she shares in her book, What Made Maddy Run. Kate spoke about Maddya talented young athlete who lost her life to suicide. Kate explored the pressures and expectations placed on young athletes, as well as the impact of mental health challenges in today's world. She explored the factors at play in Maddy’s life such as social media, depression, drinking, and pressure to perform at an exceptional level as an athlete.  

Kate also talked about some of the core issues and hurdles faced by young people in college – including student-athletesas they grow and work to discover their identity, both socially and personally.  

Guest speakers: Kym and Mark Hilinski 

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Pictured above, guest speaker Kym Hilinski speaks to the audience about her son's struggle with suicide and mental health. 

Kym and Mark Hilinski founded Hilinski’s Hope after their son, Tyler, died by suicide in 2018. Tyler was an outstanding quarterback for Washington State University, earning the nickname “Comeback Kid” after leading the Cougars to an amazing 21-point comeback against Boise State in 2017. 

The Hilinski’s gave a moving and powerful presentation about their own son’s struggle with mental health. They also spoke about the prevalence of depression and suicide in student-athletics, emphasizing the importance of treating athletes’ mental wellness in the same way we talk about physical health and fitness. 

Coaches Care 

At the Breakfast, Bill Farrow – longtime MHP donor and member of the Boulder Valley Rotary Clubannounced an exciting new project aimed at reducing suicide and suicide ideation among young student-athletes by providing free suicide prevention training to local coaches.  

Why coaches? Because often they are among the first to see changes in behaviors of youth, even before parents and caregivers. There can be many signs that a young person is facing mental health challenges – including a sudden lack of interest, atypical anger or withdrawal, increased emphasis on performance or pressure to perform, or talk about being a failure. Teaching coaches how to recognize the signs and symptoms of suicidality in young athletes and teams can save lives.  

Coaches Care is a collaborative initiative made possible through generous contributions from community members, local businesses, and organizations, as well as our community partners: Buffs4Life, Boulder Valley Rotary Club, and YMCA of Northern Colorado. All proceeds raised from the Community Breakfast are designated for this lifesaving project. 

Visit our Donate page to contribute to Coaches Care. 

MHP thanks the individuals, organizations, and business partners who made this event such a huge success!