PALO ALTO, Calif. - In an emotional interview, the parents of Stanford University soccer star Katie Meyer are struggling to understand why their daughter – a star athlete with a bright future and plenty of friends – died by suicide this week.
Gina Meyer told NBC's The Today Show on Friday that it's been a "horrific" experience.
"The last couple days are like a parent's worst nightmare and you don't wake up from it," Gina said as she choked up, sitting beside her husband Steve. "So, it's just horrific."
They saw no red flags that suggested she was depressed or contemplating harming herself. She was just months away from graduating.
"She was excited," Gina said. "She had a lot on her plate. She had a lot going on. But she was happy. She was in great spirits."
The Meyers now wonder if the pressure of Stanford and sports was too much. They revealed that their daughter faced a potential disciplinary action at Stanford.
"This is the only thing that we can come up with that triggered something," Gina said.
The Meyers' final conversation with their blonde, bright-eyed daughter was on FaceTime just hours before she took her own life in her dorm room on Tuesday.
"She was the usual, jovial Katie," Steve said.
The Santa Clara County Medical-Examiner on Thursday confirmed that Meyer died by suicide. The coroner was not more specific than that.
"We are exceedingly saddened to hear about the death of Katie Meyer, a beloved, talented, and respected Stanford student, athlete, and Santa Clara County resident," the coroner's office said in a statement. "The Medical Examiner-Coroner extends sincerest condolences to the family, friends, and fans of Katie Meyer."
Meyer was beloved by many. Stanford freshman Kate Tully never met Meyer, but called her a campus leader whose death has touched every part of the Stanford community.
"Stanford students are very much reeling from the tragedy. I think that you can really feel it in the air, and you can feel it in the community spaces, in the dormitories, in classrooms and lectures."
Erick Schlimmer, a Health and Human Performance Lecturer at Stanford School of Medicine, hosts classroom discussions about suicide and ways to address it. Many of his students are also athletes. He speaks openly about his uncle, Bill Schlimmer, a California Highway Patrol officer who died by suicide in 2006.
"What must her parents feel like?" Schlimmer said of Meyer's grieving parents, noting he can empathize.
"We thought everything was okay…How was it so difficult for us to recognize the signs?" Schlimmer said.
Daria Lucchesi, a sports coach and founder of coaching company ProTheory wants the national conversation surrounding Meyer's death to lead to real action to support student-athletes. Lucchesi, a former college lacrosse star at James Madison University, says too many college athletes shoulder their mental health struggles in silence.
"There's a lot of talk around mental performance but not mental health, and it makes it really hard to talk about it because sports are kind of like this aggressive culture," Lucchesi said.
"We need to peel back the layers, because I've seen teammates go through it, I've gone through it, and being an athlete is someone who you are, and not just something that you do. But we need to flip that," Lucchesi added.
Thousands poured onto Maloney Field, the home of Stanford soccer, for a vigil to remember the star athlete the night after she died.
Meyer's sister, Samantha, posted a message on her Instagram stories Wednesday, saying, "There are no words. Thank you for all the kindness extended to my family. I'm not ready to post anything big right yet. We are broken-hearted and love Kat so much."
Samantha shared a link to a GoFundMe page collecting donations for a memorial fund for Meyer.
Meyer was a senior majoring in International Relations, resident assistant, and was supposed to graduate this year. She was a goalkeeper and captain of the women's soccer team at Stanford.
Meyer's fierce competitiveness helped Stanford win its third NCAA women's soccer championship in 2019.
"I saw her as goalkeeper on the team and I saw how passionate she is about soccer and how big a support she is for everybody on her team.," said Luise Bachmann, a Stanford sophomore on the rowing team.
"A lot of just blank white faces, a lot of shock," said Stanford sophomore Kieran Wallace. "I’ve seen an unbelievable amount of support among student athletes. We got the chance just to write little notes to our suite mates who are on the team with her, and just showed our support for them and that we’re thinking about them."
If you or someone you know may need support call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also available 24 hours a day at 800-273-8255.