Miller's struggles with mental health were so severe that he told his coach he had intended to take his own life.
Trigger warning: This story contains themes of suicide that some readers may find disturbing.
Former Ohio State footballer Harry Miller delivered a powerful message of hope to those fighting depression after retiring from the game. The offensive lineman announced that he was medically retiring from the game due to his mental health struggles. It got so severe that Miller told his coach that he was going to end his life. After announcing his retirement, he spoke about his depression to TODAY and delivered an emotional message. "I would just say hope is just pretending to believe in something until one day you don't have to pretend anymore," said Miller. "And right now we have all the logic, all the rationale in the world to give up on it. And I just ask, pretend for a little bit, and then one day you won't have to pretend anymore and you'll be happy."
Miller's message comes just a week after Katie Meyer, a star soccer goalie at Stanford University, died by suicide, highlighting the immense pressure college athletes deal with. Miller fought tears as he delivered the message of hope on national television. "I'm so grateful," said Miller. "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." Earlier this month, on March 10, Miller announced his retirement from the sport in a statement released on Twitter. Miller was a starter on the 2020 Ohio State team that won the Big Ten championship.
After he told his coach Ryan Day that he was going to kill himself, Day got him the professional help that he desperately needed. He got better and had another crack at football but he was still struggling. "I tried my luck at football again, with 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," he wrote.
He spoke of fighting the pain and the support system required to help those in need. "I will love more than I can be hated or laughed at, for I know people who are sneering need most the love that I was looking for," he continued. "The cost of apathy is life, but for a small price of life is as small as an act of kindness that was offered to me by others when I could not produce kindness for myself."
Miller said he struggled with mental health issues from a very young age, recalling telling his mother that he wanted to take his own life when he was just 8-years-old. "I guess I've always been anxious and depressed," he said. While Miller struggled with mental health issues, to the outsider, he seemed to be flying. He was the valedictorian of his high school with a 4.0 grade-point average as a mechanical engineering major at Ohio State. He was an Ohio state footballer and regularly volunteers in Ohio and made mission trips to Nicaragua to help families to help them build homes. "I just kept thinking, if only somebody would just say something, and I'm just really grateful that I was able to have received the care and love that I did," said Miller.
Miller the expectation of being a high-profile football player weighed heavy on him. "You play a game, it's a hard game, perhaps you made a lot of mistakes, and people send you a message saying, 'Transfer, you suck,'" he said. "Some people get death threats that I know on the team, and I'm trying to text my mom, that's the first thing I see, and then 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 and you're like, 'What is happening right now?'"
When asked why he decided to open up about his mental health struggles to the public, he said, "I've just been really grateful to one, receive the help I have, and then two, to learn some things that I can share with others. I had no intention of this happening the way it did, and people call me brave, but to me, this felt like not dying, and I felt like being honest. And maybe bravery is just being honest when it would easier not to, and if that's bravery, then so be it."
If you are having thoughts about taking your own life, or know of anyone who is, please contact The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)