Eric Hipple, former Detroit Lions quar­terback, addressed a crowd of Hillsdale stu­dents last Thursday on suicide pre­vention and the impor­tance of mental health.

Hipple, who quar­ter­backed the Lions for 10 seasons, has expe­ri­enced the struggles of mental illness first hand, including having a son who took his own life at age 15. Throughout his speech, Hipple stressed the impor­tance of having a pos­itive mindset in everyday life.

“Mental health isn’t the absence of a brain illness,” Hipple said.  “It’s about having a sense of well being on who we are.”

The entire Hillsdale football team attended the event. The football program has been involved in suicide pre­vention and mental health awareness since 2005, when freshman line­backer Adam Emery com­mitted suicide. Since then, the team has donated the pro­ceeds of its annual youth camp to The Jason Foun­dation, an orga­ni­zation that increases awareness of youth suicide and edu­cates people on the signs of those who may be strug­gling with sui­cidal thoughts.

Head football coach Keith Otterbein said he con­tinues to hold the topic close to his heart. Next to the football field is a tree planted in memory of Emery.

“Every home game I walk by that tree, and for the last 12 years, I think about that family,” Otterbein said. “I say a prayer every time I pass that tree for his family, and for awareness.”

Otterbein said more often than we think, somebody we know is strug­gling with their mental health. He pointed out that one doesn’t need to go very many layers in their rela­tion­ships to find someone who has com­mitted suicide.

“A heightened awareness, more than any­thing, is what we realize is important.” Otterbein said. “Before Adam, we thought, ‘it’ll never happen to us.’ Then it does.”

Director of the Health and Wellness Center Brock Lutz helped bring Hipple to campus. The Health and Wellness Center pro­vides indi­vidual and group coun­seling for all mental health issues, which Lutz encourages stu­dents to take advantage of.

Lutz said he appre­ciated Hipple’s emphasis on rela­tion­ships, mental per­spective, physical health, good choices, and spir­itual per­spective.

“I believe that approach is the most helpful in keeping people healthy and assisting them in over­coming more sig­nif­icant mental health chal­lenges,” Lutz said.

Hipple was intro­duced Thursday by senior Taylor Hannel, pres­ident of the Light­house Orga­ni­zation, the mental health club on campus. The Light­house Orga­ni­zation exists to help bring down the stigma sur­rounding mental illness on campus. Hannel said the organization’s main goals are to let people know that it’s OK to get help, and to help find the resources in order to do so.

Hannel sug­gested stu­dents take advantage of the available assets around them.

“My biggest piece of advice is to utilize the resources on this campus. I think this campus some­times has an atmos­phere of ‘every­thing is fine,’ but it’s important to know that it’s OK if it’s not OK,” Hannel said. “We have mul­tiple resources here on campus —  your RA’s, your pro­fessors, the deans —  just to know that help is available and there’s nothing wrong with reaching out.”

By spreading awareness on the topic of mental health, Hipple hopes to ensure that the people who hear his message will become more com­fortable rec­og­nizing problems and take steps to help those who need it.

“It’s not the problem that’s the problem, it’s the inability to solve it,” Hipple said.