Last week, our Cowboy Family returned to campus, excited for another semester here in Stillwater. As we all rolled in at different times throughout the weekend, it seemed by Monday night every group of friends had managed to meet back up and share some cheese fries from Eskimo Joe's. Everyone's cases of the "terrible Tuesdays" were awoken by blaring alarms that screamed with excitement for our new classes.
It was impossible to not be excited, fresh from break (possibly a vacation?), reunited with all of our friends, brand new clothes for the holidays! Yet only four days into our new semester, Oklahoma State University suffered a huge loss.
Our family had to learn of the passing of a fellow Cowboy, a loyal and true student who cared about his friends, his grades, extra-curricular organizations and activities and more. It was a huge shock, and for his friends who had spoken to him merely twelve hours before, the reality of the situation seemed impossible.
Our community came together, with the support and care that no one would expect any less of on this campus. This past Monday, students, faculty, and family of our fallen Cowboy gathered in the Student Union to honor and celebrate the life this young man.
Throughout the candle-light vigil, we got to hear from friends and family. We heard funny stories, touching stories and memories that the people in his life will cherish forever. And while I did not know my fellow Cowboy, my heart ached, and my eyes were certainly not dry. It is no secret that suicide is a huge issue on college campuses all over the country, and as someone who is deeply affected by mental health and suicide, I wondered what Oklahoma State University is doing on campus to prevent these incidents from occurring.
I spoke with RHA Student Government Senator Holland Gray regarding the issue.
Mr. Gray coordinated the vigil for our late Cowboy and stayed active on all social media to make our campus aware of what had happened and what was being done for it.
The first bill Holland wrote was a joint resolution between Oklahoma State and the University of Oklahoma where our "house divided" gameday mentality can be put aside to become a "house united" in an attempt to tackle mental health awareness. Holland called for a public service announcement in an attempt to denounce the stigma around mental health, suicide awareness, and counseling at both universities.
His attempts have not gone unnoticed as the campuses have begun to promote inclusive communities rather than exclusive and negative environments.
Another Oklahoma State University SGA resolution called for a suicide prevention education training on campus. Holland announced at the conclusion of the vigil that this will be taking place on Feb. 28 at 4:30 p.m. in the Student Union Theatre.
As a family, we recognize the loss of one of our own. Yet on campus, we are still making great strides and yearning for the day that sons and daughters will stop being taken from their families and friends after falling victim to a disease that most of us cannot see.
Depression is invisible, but our efforts do not have to be.