The CU Independent is saddened to announce that our friend and assistant sports editor Griffin Rucker took his own life this past week. Griffin was loved by all who came in touch with him and will be dearly missed. Current and former members of the CU Independent sports team express their deepest condolences to Griffin’s family and urge those struggling with mental health to seek help.
A few words from those who remember and admired Griffin at the CUI:
I met Griffin at CU’s “college day” during welcome week my freshman year. Griffin was a transfer student from UCCS and with our shared passion for sports, we immediately hit it off. Soon after, we reconnected at the CUI. Although he was a Dallas Cowboys fan, Griffin had a big heart and I think few understood how sharp his sense of humor was. This upcoming semester, Griffin and I were set to be the two CUI sports editors. He was more than deserving of the role and I was excited to work with Griffin as he continued to impress as a sports journalist. I am truly devastated that he is gone.
One thing that I hope people will take away from this is there’s no shame in asking for help. It’s remarkable how many people are living a painful life in silence. I too have struggled with mental health and anxiety. I stepped down from my sports editor position last year and nearly took a semester off school. I could barely make it through class and I know countless others who’ve had similar experiences. If you resonate with my words, please know that seeking help is one of the best things you can do. The silent majority doesn’t need to be silent anymore. There doesn’t need to be this stigma around asking for help or even talking to a friend about what you’re going through. You’ll go to the doctor for that broken pinky toe, but why not for a mind in need of repair? Expressing your vulnerabilities is, in my opinion, an admirable trait and one that is often suppressed in our society.
Our country has a mental health pandemic on our hands that is just as concerning and attention worthy as the coronavirus. To make change, I believe we need to look at this problem at its roots. While the band-aid solution of mental health treatment is certainly valuable, we need to start making changes at the base of our culture. If the park has a broken swing, why are we investing in ice packs instead of a new swing? Why are we constantly exposing ourselves to the toxic environments of social media? College students are subject to spend hours a day behind their laptops and glued to their phones, and with an upcoming semester appearing to be mostly online, I am concerned for many. Griffin’s unfortunate passing is yet another wake up call. How many more suicides are we going to swallow before we adjust our ways?
I miss Griffin and want people to know there’s no need to hide your pain and you’ll probably even run into a few friends in the therapist’s waiting room. I get it, though — finding help is hard and Colorado’s mental health care system is in desperate need of improvement. But it’s worth the effort and there is light at the end of the tunnel. Support is available and I wish that Griffin hadn’t fallen trap to this major societal problem. I will never forget our desperate searches for parties on the Hill, Saturdays at Folsom and late nights at the keg. My thoughts go out to your family and I’m glad to see heaven has finally gained a Cowboys fan. Love you, Griffin.
– Jack Carlough, Head Sports Editor
I transferred to CU following my freshman year of college, which I spent away from my home in Boulder. The CU Independent sports group became essentially my first friend group outside of group and one-on-one therapy that I decided to do after suffering severe anxiety and depression during my first year living on my own for college in Indianapolis. I remember wondering how I was going to get to know people at the CUI more this past fall after taking a year off from school to recover mentally. Even in our relatively small group of the CUI sports section, I remember feeling nervous texting Griffin if he wanted to go to the CU-CSU game with me. Prior to this, I had kind of avoided actually getting to know and socializing with people in the group through covering games and constantly writing stories. Even though I enjoy that, I realized it became somewhat of an avoidance tactic. But, I’ll always remember busing down to Denver with Griffin for the game. We didn’t actually get a seat at the game, so we stood and talked pretty much after every snap about what happened the play before and who should’ve done what because typically as sports journalists, there’s a shared pleasure in pointing out faults and figuring out what went wrong on the play. After the game the bus that took us to Denver broke down and we ended up wandering around Denver until about 2 a.m. until we caught a bus home to Boulder. That memory is something I’ll never forget and it was from that point forward that I began to feel much more comfortable talking to people within our group and Griffin became someone I felt comfortable talking and reaching out to. I remember going to CU’s Denver Nuggets Club trying to meet some people, and I saw Griffin there a fair amount. Just having someone I felt comfortable sitting and talking with helped alleviate my concern about not knowing anybody there.
I feel guilty and sad knowing that he didn’t feel comfortable reaching out to me because I feel like I could’ve been someone that would help normalize talk surrounding suicide and mental health. After my freshman year of college during the year I took off, I suffered from a relentless cycle of anxiety and depression which put me on suicide hold in the hospital on two separate occasions. I’ll never forget the overwhelming fear, anxiety and racing thoughts associated with it, and that’s something no one should have to go through alone. I’ve thought about Griffin a lot over the past couple days and just hope he’s in a better place, one free of pain and suffering.
I hope this piece helps shed light on the fact that people are not going to judge you if you’re struggling, and more importantly, seeking and getting help is not something to be ashamed of. I know for me personally, I never wanted to admit I was struggling. Not only did I not want to talk to anyone about it, it felt good to isolate myself and more often than not, cry myself to sleep throughout my freshman year of college. I even started seeing a therapist and stopped a few weeks later because I just chose not to address the issue and didn’t think much of it at the time when I was away from home. I know from experience that suicidal ideation is extremely isolating because oftentimes and in my case as well, I shut my family and friends out of my life. It was just me and my thoughts. My inner dialogue became very judgmental and I wasn’t sure how to navigate intense emotions without anyone to validate what I was thinking. Once I was able to overcome the fear of external judgment and eventually accepted that it was okay to get help, I started one-on-one and group therapy. I continue both to this day and strongly believe I would not be the position I am in today without both methods of support.
There I learned about the power of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). It covers everything from breathing exercises, distress tolerance skills such as cold water immersion techniques to interpersonal communication and relationship building. There’s an endless number of skills and exercises. You just have to find what works best for you. I used the cold water immersion techniques to help combat suicidal racing thoughts and paranoia while on suicide hold in October of 2018. Dunking your head underwater even for just 30 seconds slows your heart rate, regulates breathing, and engages your parasympathetic nervous system which has a calming effect. Also, the cold water hitting the face shocks and has a way of resetting your system.
Having skills I could rely on gave me a sense of control, something that is almost always completely lost when considering suicide. But, none of it would’ve been possible without help from a therapist. The hardest part is seeking and accepting help. As humans, vulnerability is scary, however, I’ve learned through therapy that being vulnerable leads to individual growth and can be the first step in climbing the seemingly insurmountable mountain that anxiety, depression and suicidal thinking can represent.
– Adam Bender, former Sports Editor and current Managing Editor
It’s impossible not to somewhat selfishly take a tragedy such as the suicide of a friend and colleague and make it personal. The questions that forever will remain unanswered take one’s mind down some tough roads. When was the breaking point? Did I do or say enough? Maybe I did and said too little? As Griffin’s friend and former sports editor, I find myself asking these questions now regularly.
To see Griffin Rucker’s light unexpectedly and abruptly extinguished from this world pains me deeply. I recently came across a story he wrote about Colorado’s Quidditch team that made me smile. It epitomizes Griffin’s wit, intelligence, writing style and demeanor in general. Griffin very much fit the bill of a kid who came into the CU Independent newsroom needing some polishing when it came to sports writing and writing in general (didn’t we all when we first began?). I can recall sitting down with him and going over early stories of his, pointing out errors in grammar and style and reflecting upon when our roles were reversed — when I was an underclassman writer at the CUI being coached and guided by my first editors.
Griffin progressed immensely and became a trusted staff writer at the CUI. He regularly covered Colorado football and men’s basketball — the two most senior sports beats one could be on — and proved that he was a more than capable professional.
I already miss Griffin and will continue to miss him for the rest of my days. I miss his unrelenting support of the Dallas Cowboys and social media persona that made me laugh on more than a handful of occasions. Genuine friendship is not something to be taken for granted, and I know Griffin provided just that and more for those who worked with him in the CUI Sports section and in general. I hope you have found peace, my brother. Rest easy.
– Justin Guerriero, former Head Sports Editor and Managing Editor
I don’t even know where to start. Writing this is something I never thought I would have to do. Just like my fellow writers and friends, I wish I had known more about how Griffin was feeling and I can’t help but feel a little guilty for not reaching out and finding that out for myself. I met Griffin my junior year of college working at the CUI. I had joined the year before and loved the staff but I was always the youngest and newest. When Griffin joined it felt like I immediately had a new friend and we instantly bonded over sports and similar tastes in video games. Part of the reason I joined the CUI was to meet people exactly like Griffin, fans of sports who like to talk and write about them. Some of my friends outside of the CUI don’t care for sports so when I went to meetings and saw friends like Griffin, I always knew I was in for a fun night and a lively conversation. I looked forward to meeting days all week and some of my favorite memories are coming up the stairs into the Armory and seeing Griffin waiting outside the newsroom. I would grin and he would smile back and we would just hop into a deep conversation. I have great memories of attending CU sporting events with him and we always got along famously, joking and laughing the whole time. Whether it was a freezing day watching the CU soccer team, or a scorching day watching the CU lacrosse team, Griffin was always a positive spirit. I smile when I write this but sadness hits me when I remember why I am writing this. I miss Griffin dearly and I hope he finds peace. I urge anyone reading this article to please reach out to someone you haven’t talked to in a while. They may really need a friend.
– Max Troderman, former Sports Editor
These things are never easy.
I had just gotten home from a long day of work. I took off my shoes, cast my backpack to the side and shed my personal belongings before finally being able to sit down after many hours of laborious work and exhaled a breathy, deep sigh of relief — as one is apt to do after finally getting home after a long day at work. As I was reflecting on my day of frustration and dealing with the mundanities of work, Justin Guerriero, a roommate of mine and former CUI alum, came in my room, sat down and said we needed to talk.
And then he told me.
My heart sank. My selfish, petty frustrations about my workday suddenly evaporated as my brain began trying to process the gut-wrenching news I’d just received. Perspective slapped me in the face just about as hard as the heartbreaking news did.
Memories of Griffin began playing like B-roll footage in my head. As a fellow Dallas Cowboys fan, I remember our many talks about how painfully mediocre the Cowboys were and our mutual admiration of Tony Romo. As his former sports editor, it was a joy to be able to see his growth as a young journalist, from having to polish his earlier works of the semester to trusting him to edit and not having to comb over his work by the end of it. Griffin was an incredibly talented kid. I always loved his humorous, quick-witted Tweets and his easy-to-approach persona. I always appreciated his go-getter attitude and his willingness to cover the games that, frankly, I didn’t want to cover. And he’d do it with a smile. Always with a smile.
I never sensed that Griffin was sad or hurting in any way. And that’s the thing though, we almost never do sense that. I wish he would’ve reached out to me, to anyone, to talk. But it’s also our job as friends and as humans to check-in on eachother. These things are never easy and their tough reminders about the fragility of life and it’s oft cruel nature. You never know what someone is truly going through, or how someone is feeling, or who might need a friendly reminder that they’re not alone. Life is a long, tough road, but we walk it together.
Rest easy, my friend.
– Scott MacDonald, former Sports Editor
Griffin’s family is asking for donations to the Pikes Peak Suicide Prevention Organization. If you are struggling with mental health, CU offers free student access to Silver Cloud, a mental health resource, and therapy at Counseling and Psychiatric Services.