By Blake Dickinson, Contributor
Helping the community has been a goal of Kyler Erickson’s long before he even knew about the Allstate Good Works award. However, the kind of selfless service he has done through his work for those suffering from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) is exactly what the committee for the national award is looking for.
Kyler, a Junior guard on the Mavericks basketball team, is one of 251 nominees (189 men, 95 women) for the 2015 Allstate NABC and WBCA Good Works award, which is in its third year recognizing the student-athletes across the nation who have demonstrated exceptional service to their communities.
As a senior in high school, Erickson was just feet away from a fatal shooting at his high school, Millard South. The sights and sounds of the experience left Erickson with recurring nightmares and hallucinations that would continue throughout his senior year and into his first year of college at Northwest Missouri State.
After a year and a half of being burdened by the event, he decided to seek help. He was diagnosed with PTSD and endured several months of rigorous EMDR (Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) therapy that moved these memories from one side of his brain to the other where they would be less likely to trigger painful emotions.
“When I was going through PTSD, there was no one my age who I could talk to that understood my experiences,” said Erickson, “The people I was talking to were older, like war veterans, and I had a harder time connecting.” This is when he realized that his experience could be used to help people his own age.
With a passion for helping others and a knack for videography, Kyler decided to begin making videos that he could share with not only victims of traumatic events, but also those struggling with depression or considering ending their lives. This hobby eventually grew into his own website, kylererickson.com, where he is able to share his story and provide young people with the resources and encouragement that could save their lives. To date, the website has had over 25,000 visitors in 13 countries.
Erickson does a great deal of email communication with those struggling with similar issues as well as traveling and speaking at various churches, schools and mental health organizations. “Many kids have questions or want advice about things like depression. I do what I can and then always give them the names of counselors or other people who have helped me.”
Playing basketball has always been aditional therapy for Erickson, who enters his first season of eligibility with the Mavericks after two years at Northwest Missouri State and having to sit out the 2013-14 season following NCAA transfer rules. “Basketball has given me another family to rely on and to go to for support,” he said.
Erickson also views basketball as a platform for showing others that PTSD or depression don’t have to have a permanent effect on your life. “A lot of people think that if you get treatment for these things that you have to put your life on hold. But playing Division I basketball is hopefully proving to those people that your life doesn’t have to be paused and that it can always still improve.”
As a double major in business and Spanish, Kyler hopes to make a career out of sharing his story with others. “Right now it’s just a hobby, but if I could make do this full-time I would love it even more,” he said. Even without professional experience or training making videos, Erickson knows that the personal touch his testimonials have still allows them to reach hundreds, even thousands of people who need to hear them.
The finalists for the Good Hands award will be announced in February and will include a group of ten men and ten women (five from Division I schools and another five from Divisions II, III and the NAIA) from collegiate basketball programs across the country. The award committee is composed of former college basketball players, led by former Duke and NBA star Grant Hill. The winners will be recognized at the 2015 NCAA Final Four in Indianapolis.
“Kyler is a very valuable member of our basketball program,” head coach Derrin Hansen said. “Not only is he a good basketball player, but at the end of the day he is also a tremendous person. He contributes locally in our Omaha community and also regionally, nationally and internationally to assist people and spread a message of inspiration and hope. We are incredibly proud of Kyler’s commitment to service and his selfless encouragement of others.”