Lesko and Bailey share their stories of receiving mental health support | Mercer Island Reporter

Risley Lesko and Walter Bailey took center stage, providing powerful and insightful glimpses into their lives and the mental health support they received in their time of need.

About halfway through the 20th annual Mercer Island Youth and Family Services (MIYFS) Foundation fundraising breakfast, held virtually on February 9, the two former soccer players took viewers through their difficult times. trips and how they emerged with family and friends. standing by their side to help guide them to brighter days.

Islander and KING-TV news anchor Steve Bunin emceed “Rise Up!” event, in which the MIYFS advisory team and staff received the 2022 Community Philanthropy Award.

In an emotional speech, foundation board member Robin Moore said the honorees have been truly heroic during the last two years of the pandemic.

“You have managed to take care of everyone else in your lives and yet you show up for us every day despite having fewer hours a week and fewer of you on staff. You have been the lifeline for many during a time when the light at the end of the tunnel has been dim or non-existent. We will always be in your debt and we want you all to know how much we appreciate you,” said Moore.

Lesko and Bailey’s interviews followed and received copious pop-up comments of appreciation from viewers for opening up their lives to others.


Following Lesko’s sophomore football season at Colgate University, the 2013 Mercer Island High School (MIHS) graduate and on-field standout was diagnosed with bipolar disorder type one after experiencing bouts of mania. and depression.

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Not long after his diagnosis, he returned home with his parents from school in upstate New York, at one point spending three to four months bedridden in the depths of clinical depression.

Soon he would be heading to Georgia to receive assistance and begin daily meetings with other people with bipolar disorders.

“I got the help I needed when I needed it because my parents were able to give it to me and they had the knowledge. I had the opportunity to go to a mental health center in Atlanta,” she said.

At times, Lesko wondered why he was there and thought about how he had spent his life from playing college football to where he is today.

“I got to the point where I was like, ‘Okay, I can waste this time or get what I can out of it,’ and decided to really commit,” he said. “That’s where I really fell in love with counseling and decided that’s what I wanted to do.”

Lesko, who returned to Colgate in 2016 to rejoin the football team and finish his career, feels fortunate to have the opportunity and resources to receive such vital treatment.



She smiled as she said that she won the lottery in the parenting department and also noted that her fiancé has been a major source of support. They got engaged in December 2021 and Lesko will start working this spring at Family Services in Burbank, California. He is currently working toward his master of arts in counseling at Wake Forest University and aspires to become a licensed mental health counselor and eventually open his own practice.

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Bailey, raised in Portland, Oregon, won three Rose Bowl rings in the early 1990s for the University of Washington football team, which shared a national championship during one of those stellar seasons.

Not advancing his skills to the National Football League and being cut by the Canadian Football League after one season was a “gut punch” for Bailey, and he began to spiral into anxiety, depression, substance abuse and lack. of housing.

“My sincerity of purpose was cloaked in a false sense of priorities and a false sense of hope. I was missing that connection of being okay with myself,” she said.

One day in 2010, Bailey experienced a moment of clarity when his best friend pulled him out of a crack house and guided him to recovery. Before seeking help, Bailey said he felt like a failure after his athletic success and forgot the importance of the human experience.

Bailey has been working in the behavioral health field in Portland for the last 10 years and has a loving relationship with his family, wife and daughters.

“My passion is working with people who have given up or people who have given up on them. It is fostering relationships with people. That’s the most important thing: people need to understand that connection is everything, and I love helping people because they help me. Because it’s the right thing to do for me,” she said.

People will face struggles, trials and tribulations and they must never give up, he said.

“What I know to be success for me is a man standing on top of my past failures,” he said. “I feel great that I don’t have to be ashamed of where I come from. I’ve been through challenges and changes, but I’m human, and I’m more proud to be human today than ever.”

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To view the presentation, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7C1yrxcStWI&t=1130s

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