Forum: It’s OK not to be OK: Learning to recognize warning signs saves lives.

Jackson Clifford

You are not alone. You are loved. You are beautiful. I wish I’d said these things to my childhood friend before she made the decision to take her life. As you can see, the topic of suicide prevention and mental health comes across as taboo as talking about losing a friend or loved one. The stigma surrounding the conversation about suicide prevention is exactly what advocates for mental health awareness are trying to change.

I initially got involved with raising awareness about this stigmatized issue at UT when I joined the Tejas Club. In 2010, a recent graduate of the University and former member of Tejas took his own life. As he was a friend to many and full of life, the tragedy was unexplainable.  It was after this event that members of our organization asked the UT Counseling and Mental Health Center how we could help ensure that other students learn about ways to practice mental health and prevent suicide. 

As the current Tejas Club officer for suicide prevention, I’ve learned that it is completely normal for someone to be troubled, experience bouts of depression or be unhappy with their current situation in life. It is OK not to be OK. It is an upsetting reality, however, that suicide is the second leading cause of death amongst college-aged students. That is why the Counseling and Mental Health Center created the Be That One Program with a mission to raise awareness for suicide prevention. The CMHC and Be That One Program provide several resources for members of the UT community to practice self-care, including:

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  • Mental health and suicide prevention workshops
  • Individual and group counseling
  • In-house psychiatric services
  • Mind/body labs to help students manage stress
  • Same-day crisis services for students to access a counselor
  • A year-round CMHC Crisis Line for students to talk with trained counselors about urgent concerns

The most impactful way that we can help is to learn about how to recognize when others are dealing with depression and potentially struggling with thoughts of suicide. Two-thirds of students tell someone in their personal support network that they’re thinking of suicide before telling a counselor.  This is why it is even more critical that we know how and when to help. When someone opens up regarding this issue, it is best to empathize rather than sympathize. Simply listen to someone when they want to discuss what they are experiencing. If you see a friend or loved one who looks like they are going through a particularly hard time, ask about it. Everything starts with a simple conversation. Who knows, your actions may very well change the course of someone else’s life. It is easier than you could imagine for you to truly be that one.

Clifford is an accounting junior from Frisco. He is the current officer for suicide prevention in Tejas Club.