By Steve Dulaney, MA, LMHC, CSAT
President, Prodigals International
It’s been a week since the tragic news broke about the suicide of WSU Quarterback Tyler Hilinski. Like you, I’m sure, I was stunned. Another incredible young person who appeared to be living his dream, with a promising future ahead of him, decided that his life was too great a burden to navigate so he brought it to an end. Utterly heartbreaking.
As we move through the shock, we seek the renewed conversations and awareness of resources about depression and suicide. I’d like to discuss one more.
As a counselor who daily works with men struggling with all kinds of issues in shame and secrecy, one of the first things we work on is getting them connected with a group of men they can talk to with honesty about what’s going on inside. We were not created to do life alone, but in real community with one another. Authentic brotherhood creates the right environment for healing and transformation to occur.
Our overriding emphasis for Higher Ground 2018 is encouraging men toward authentic relationship – man to man, husbands and wives, fathers and sons. Today, specifically, I want to encourage every dad with a teenage son who receives this email to consider joining us Feb. 10. We have a 2-session Father-Teen tract designed to encourage our young men to TALK to their dads about what’s going on inside, to see themselves as God’s child, to know God has a design and purpose for their lives, and to begin to surround themselves with other Christian young men who share their values and will be those SAFE confidants for years to come. Former Seattle Seahawk Clint Gresham will share his own story of struggling with anxiety and depression, even while he was at the top of his game as a Super-Bowl-winning professional football player.
I encourage you to be mindful of single moms with teen sons, perhaps offering to bring her son with you. If you have a college-age son, please use the discounted Father-Teen Combo ticket opportunities and bring him.
I’m not naïve to think that our conference will be some kind of instant fix to a global pandemic of depression, anxiety and suicide in our young people. But I DO KNOW that when men (of every age) get connected with other men in authentic, safe relationships, healing can begin. Encouragement happens. A renewed sense of purpose happens. Good tools of strength and resiliency are built into one another for the long haul.
I struggled as to whether I should offer a response to Tyler Hilinski’s too-early death. I didn’t want it to look like I was taking advantage of a tragedy to sell tickets to a conference. But Prodigals doesn’t make any money from Higher Ground; in our 6th year, Higher Ground continues to be a break-even-at-best ministry. We simply want to help. We want to raise the conversation for men to come together, to get connected, to get the tools and the support they need for a life of integrity, a life that thrives.
I hope to see you February 10 at Westminster Chapel.