Be Better: Holland mental health nonprofit creates program for student athletes

HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Ever since losing their son to suicide, Ian Miskelley’s family set out to ‘Be Better,’ the name of their Holland-based foundation aimed at improving the mental health system.

Ian’s father, Steve Miskelley, said Be Better recently received its 501-C3 nonprofit status, making them eligible for local and national grant programs.

“We applied for and were awarded a grant from the Community Foundation of Holland Zeeland for $10,000 to develop an education series,” Miskelley said.

He said the education series will focus on student athletes.

“Athletes are what we know,” he said.

His son Ian was a standout athlete, living his dream swimming at the University of Michigan.

Ian, a Holland Christian High School graduate, was 19 years old when he took his life in September 2020.

His family said he had long struggled with depression and anxiety.

“Roughly 60% of any particular school, the student body participates in athletics,” Miskelley said. “Forty percent of athletes reported issues with mental health and struggles with mental health.”

Over the weekend, student athletes’ mental health once again made national headlines after a 21-year-old star athlete at the University of Wisconsin died by suicide.

Sarah Shulze’s family posted about her death on a website dedicated to her life, NBC’s Today Show reports.

“Sarah took her own life. Balancing athletics, academics and the demands of everyday life overwhelmed her in a single, desperate moment,” her family said in a post.

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National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1.800.273.8255

Be Better has partnered with Hope College’s athletic department, planning to roll out the education series in the coming weeks.

“Educate the coaches and teams … on what’s available and how to help someone who might be struggling on your team and in your family,” Miskelley said. “So we’ll start with Hope because they’re a good partner, but we’re already talking to local high schools about really doing the same thing.”

Miskelley said it’s what Ian would’ve wanted.

“That’s exactly the legacy we want to carry on. We want to help people find solutions. We want to help them get the help they need. We want to help them bring voice to these struggles. Because the worst thing we can do is to be sitting here in silence while they suffer in silence. We need to be talking about this. That’s exactly what he’d be doing,” Miskelley said.

Be Better is hosting its first annual golf outing Monday, June 13 at Macatawa Golf club. You can register online.

To learn more about Be Better and the services they provide, go to