Patricia Garcia • Managing & Newsletter Editor
In honor of September being Suicide Prevention Awareness month, UT Tyler hosted an awareness walk to bring awareness to mental health and provide resources to students.
Phi Kappa Phi, UT Tyler Student Counseling Center and East Texas Crisis Center contributed to create a two consecutive day event that started off with an information booth on Sept. 28.
“We wanted to sort of couple it with an information event primarily to make the issue visible and to have anyone who wants to stop by to ask questions or pick up some information that could potentially save someone’s life,” Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication, Dr. Terry Britt said.
The event is a personal topic for Britt, who battled with depression and suicide thoughts for nearly 40 years.
“My own struggle with depression and suicide stems from childhood trauma,” Britt said. “I was raped when I was six years old by a neighbor, and nothing was ever done for me.”
Britt stated that during this time, and living in a rural area in eastern Tennessee, there was no child advocacy or free psychological counseling resources.
“It’s always sort of been the specter over my family and my own life,” Britt said. “It turns out that both of my parents were suicidal. I unfortunately walked in on the attempts at different times with both of them. Later on, one of my brothers was hospitalized after a suicide attempt. I slowly started to understand that suicide was an issue.”
Britt was offered a professional sports writing job at the age of 14, starting his journalism career. He then attended college at Memphis State, as it was known back then, where mental health and emotional issues led to a binge drinking habit.
“I was still questioning whether I wanted to continue living because I wasn’t getting the help that I needed,” Britt said. “I did get help for both the drinking and mental issues and emotional issues, but it still was like this off and on fight.”
Due to his experiences, it was important for Britt to be involved in both events, the second day consisting of a walk hosted Sept. 29 at UT Tyler.
“They [East Texas Crisis Center] were very eager and excited to work with us on this effort,” Britt said. “They do a lot of great work helping victims of domestic and sexual abuse and mental health issues and emotional struggles are part of that as well. We [Phi Kappa Phi] also are partnered with Student Counseling Services here at UT Tyler. That office was actually already planning for the awareness walk event.”
Member of East Texas Crisis Center, Lesslie Duran stated how important it is to raise awareness and share the resources that are available in the community.
“It’s very important for us to share and spread awareness to everybody,” Duran said. “Reach out. There are definitely a lot of resources available to everyone.”
According to Britt, the main goal was to educate the general population of what someone can do to help someone who is struggling and being able to look for warning signs.
“People are not getting the help they need because they’re blindly discouraged from talking about things such as that they don’t feel that life is worth it anymore, or they don’t see a happy ending or happy outcome for their lives or any number of things, but it is talking about it actually leading to solutions,” Britt said. “You don’t get a lot done with everyone’s silence about something.”
Britt stated that if he can influence one person to not give up on themselves, then it is worth the time and effort that he puts into this cause. He also wanted to take the time to thank the Vice President of Phi Kappa Phi, Liseth Hubbard, for all the hard work and dedication to make these events possible.
“If I can stand as an example that it doesn’t have to end tragically, then I’m good with that,” Britt said. “It doesn’t make up for anything. It doesn’t ease the difficulty it feels sometimes, but it at least gives me an outlet to say, ‘I know what you’re going through, because I have been there.’”
If you or anyone you know are in need of someone to talk, they can reach out to the following:
East Texas Crisis Center provides a 24-hour emergency hotline at 1-800-333-0358
The Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741
The Student Counseling Center Crisis line is 903-566-7254