300: Kathryn Redd opens up conversation about mental health

Cat Cardenas

Editor’s Note: In 300 words or fewer, this series spotlights people in our community whose stories typically go untold.

In a rural Belizean village, Kathryn Redd, UT's Counceling and Mental Health Center's assistant director for prevention and outreach, hoped to find her passion in life. 

Unsure of what career to pursue, Redd joined the Peace Corps and went to Belize after graduating from college. She was struck by the strong ties between the people who lived in the village, and during her time there, she bonded with the community through their struggles and hardships. 

“There were a few deaths in the village during my time there,” Redd said. “At one funeral, 500 people came out. They didn’t have much, but they were all so ready to help each other. That really struck me because [Americans are] so reserved in what they go through.”

The support systems the Belizeans had built into their community were vastly different from what she was familiar with, according to Redd, who said resources and support for wellbeing were sorely lacking in the U.S. In the absence of those resources, Redd finally found her calling. 

Once she returned to the U.S., Redd wanted to help facilitate more conversations about mental health, which she said people often avoid. She accepted a position at UT’s Counseling and Mental Health Center in an attempt to help college students, who she believed needed more
exposure to information about health issues. 

Redd created a group of peer educators — students who meet to discuss important health issues before leading stress management workshops. Seeing students continually ask for a way to get involved with the CMHC was not only rewarding for Redd but also proof that conversations about mental health were becoming normalized. 

“Our first class of peer educators were the students who wanted this to happen,” Redd said. “There’s a growing acceptance of mental illness. It’s something that exists, and people don’t need to be ashamed of getting help.”