HUNT COLUMN: Learning from the story of Harry Miller

Published 11:30 am Wednesday, March 30, 2022

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By Cathy Hunt
Troup County School Board Chairman

Last week I happened to catch a segment on Today that really moved me. It was an interview with Ohio State offensive lineman Harry Miller, who has announced that he is retiring from football for medical reasons. He doesn’t have a physical illness.

No, Harry has battled depression since childhood, and he knows he can no longer subject himself to the limelight and all the attendant stress and criticism. He is open about his struggles so that he might help others overcome any perceived stigma when it comes to mental illness, and to seek the help they need.

Looking at Harry, you see a tall, muscular, handsome young man. Listening to him, you hear impressive intelligence and insight. He plans to continue his studies as an engineering major. He has a 4.0 GPA.

Several months ago, he went to his coach and admitted he was contemplating suicide.  Ryan Day sprang into action, getting Harry professional help. Eventually Harry returned to the playing field, hiding scars on his arms with tape. But he soon realized that he could not heal in that environment. He could not recover without what he calls the “privilege of privacy.” He couldn’t avoid seeing social media posts that maligned him when he made a mistake on the field, the derisive and insulting jokes. He speaks of how college football players sometimes receive death threats when “fans” aren’t satisfied. He rightfully wonders how students can prepare for exams when all of that is swirling around them.

Harry was anxious and depressed in elementary school.

His mother got him help. He says his high school years were good.

He was valedictorian and a highly recruited football player. But the “brutal sadness” that had dogged him from time to time returned full force in college.

The TV reporter mentioned that Harry is a Georgia boy. I had been at Buford High School the previous Saturday to judge a literary competition, so I wondered if I was just making things up when I saw a flash of Harry wearing what I thought was a Buford t-shirt. I decided to contact a former colleague, now at BHS, to see if I was right.

My friend confirmed and immediately went online to find the interview. He texted me later and had this to say: Harry Miller is a “wonderful, wise, humble person,” probably one of the “best, most intellectually deep, kind, and caring kids I have ever known…a force for good in the world…to think that he might have been lost.”

Even those who seem to have everything going for them can be hurting deeply.

People who put themselves forward for scrutiny in public can be deeply wounded by hateful trolls who have nothing better to do than hide behind computer monitors and dish out venom – even to minors. Why? What good does it do?

How often might a fragile soul be pushed over the edge?

Who really wants to be responsible for that? Bullies are not just school children, who, by the way, do most of their damage these days on social media.

In his public statement, Harry Miller said, “the price of life is as small as an act of kindness.” Be kind. You might just save a life.