The language we use around topics like mental health has become a livewire in recent years as many people work to remove the negative stigmas that exist around them. Something as simple as one word can send a certain message about the importance of mental health (or lack thereof) and that was the case for NBC4 Columbus regarding a story about former Ohio State offensive lineman Harry Miller, who will be attending President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address Tuesday evening.
Miller, a senior mechanical engineering major at OSU, announced in March that he was medically retiring from football in order to focus on a mental health battle he was dealing with.
“Prior to the season last year, I told Coach [Ryan] Day of my intention to kill myself,” wrote Miller at the time. “He immediately had me in touch with Dr. Candice and Dr. Norman, and I received the support I needed. After a few weeks, I tried my luck at football once again, with scars on my wrists and throat. Maybe the scars were hard to see with my wrists taped up. Maybe it was hard to see the scars through the bright colors of the television. Maybe the scars were hard to hear through all the talk shows and interviews. 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.”
Miller has since become an advocate for mental health and emotional wellness, making public appearances and raising awareness. Now, he’s been invited to attend the State of the Union and will sit in First Lady Jill Biden’s viewing box for the president’s speech.
Miller tweeted a photo of himself outside the White House on Tuesday as well.
— Harry Miller (@h_miller76) February 7, 2023
Plenty of news outlets reported on Miller’s important trip to Washington, D.C., including NBC4 Columbus. However, in their initial report, they described Miller as having “quit the team to address his mental health.”
An Ohio State football player who quit the team to address his mental health will be a special guest at tonight’s State of the Union address.https://t.co/IoSQOR8YCk
— NBC4 Columbus (@nbc4i) February 7, 2023
The connotation of Miller’s “quitting” is exactly the kind of negative association with mental health concerns, especially in the macho world of American football, that many advocates would like to get away from. It’s also a sentiment that the OSU football community certainly wouldn’t agree with.
This is a BS headline. “quit the team”?!? WTAF?!? Every #Buckeye practice I have attended in the past year, Harry has been there. He’s on the sidelines on game day. He’s family. He’s a brother. He’s not a quitter. Period. https://t.co/eQ3ZDMrfLf
— Matt Finkes (@MattFinkes) February 7, 2023
For the record, brave people who make hard decisions to focus on their mental health are not “quitters”. Do better @nbc4i. We are very proud of @h_miller76 at @OhioStateMAE https://t.co/AMHN3GaYNH
— Rob Siston (@ProfSiston) February 7, 2023
Among those who found the headline distasteful was former Ohio State wide receiver Johnnie Dixon.
Can we say walked away to address his mental health and not quit? https://t.co/rwLcov8qUz
— Johnnie L. Dixon III (@YoungKing_JD5) February 7, 2023
In the early afternoon, NBC4 Columbus added an addendum to the initial tweet, saying “thank you to everyone who has provided feedback on this story. Its headline was updated earlier today and is visible on the linked story.”
The word “quit” still remains in the initial tweet as well as in the URL for the story.
Editor’s note: If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide or is in emotional distress, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or at suicidepreventionlifeline.org.