Ohio State’s Harry Miller delivers powerful message about mental health, and it’s time we listen

Editor’s note: If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255.

Harry Miller, the Ohio State offensive lineman who announced he was retiring from football, spoke directly to the “Today” show camera to deliver an emotional message of hope for anyone struggling as he does with mental health issues, depression and thoughts of suicide.

“I would just say, hope is just pretending to believe in something until one day you don’t have to pretend any more,” Miller said at the 6:09 mark of the below video. “And right now you have all the logic, all the rationale in the world to give up on it. And I would just ask, pretend for a little bit, and then one day you won’t have to pretend any more and you’ll be happy.”

Miller said he recently came back from Nicaragua on a mission trip sitting next to a mother and her son and realized how easily he would have given that up. He continued his message looking directly into the camera again.

“I’m so grateful,” Miller said, still holding back tears through the eight-minute long segment. “And I would just ask to keep 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.”

Miller announced in a social media post on March 10 that he was retiring from football ahead of his senior season at Ohio State. He wrote in the post that he went to Buckeyes coach Ryan Day before the 2021 season and told him he wanted to kill himself. He said he was “planning to be reduced to my initials on a sticker on the back of a helmet.” Day immediately put him in touch with doctors to receive the help he needed for his mental health. Months later, Miller told his story to shine a larger light on the issue.

“We were sort of describing it like the weather,” Miller said of his backstage conversation with the “Today” show” host Carson Daly. “You go outside and you see it’s raining and people say, ‘How about the weather today?’ And you’ve got instead of raining cats and dogs, it’s raining young people off of buildings. And you look around and you say, ‘Something is going on right now. And something needs to happen.’ The dilemma is no one has to say something, but that is precisely why someone has to say something.

“I had no intention of this happening the way it did. 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. And if that’s bravery then so be it. But I’ve just been really grateful to, one, receive the help I have. And then, two, to have learned some things that I can share with others.”

Miller said he was 8 years old when he told his mother he wanted to take his own life. He said he received treatment and “have always been anxious and depressed.” He felt good while attending high school in Buford, Georgia, and was valedictorian. He was also the No. 2 ranked guard in the country in his 2019 class, according to Rivals. He chose to attend Ohio State, where he was a backup center in 2019 and started seven games at left guard in 2020.

In addition to on-the-field pressures, the mechanical engineering major had classes to juggle and dealt with harsh messages on social media.

“You’ve got these young people being thrust under these bright lights as a student-athlete,” he said. “You play a game [and] it’s a hard game, perhaps you made a lot of mistakes, and people will send you messages saying transfer, you suck. Some people get death threats that I know on the team. And I’m trying to text my mom [and] that’s the first thing I see. You can’t worry about it too much because you’ve got an exam the next day and you have that for weeks and then months. And by the end of the semester you’re like, what is happening right now?”

Miller’s post announcing his mental health struggles came nine days after Katie Meyer, a national champion goalkeeper at Stanford, died by suicide. Her parents, Steve and Gina Meyer, spoke openly on “Today” days later about her death and said there were “no red flags.” They urged more communication between parents and college officials.

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