Megan Moore is using what she’s learning in the classroom to help break the stigma around mental health for rural teens.
Texas Tech launched Beyond Okay in 2021 as a campus-wide effort to address all kinds of well-being. Beyond Okay is designed to offer every member of our campus community the resources they need to lead fulfilling and healthy lives.
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, there is hope and help. Please reach out to the National Suicide & Crisis Hotline at 988.
The white Nissan Murano made its way across town.
The wind outside was accentuated by the silence in the car, Megan's mother drove westward, her blond curls reflecting the sunlight now and then as she drove her daughter home.
Megan's own hair, a straight, darker blond, fell heavily around her face.
“Why didn't someone talk about this in school?” Megan asked her mother, frustration imbued in her tone. “Maybe things would have been different.”
Her mother listened intently, hands tight on the steering wheel.
“Why don't you do something about it then?” her mother asked gently.
Megan, taken aback by her mother's suggestion, let the idea settle, let it sink in. It was an idea she had entertained but kept to herself. It was kindling in need of a spark. That day, her mother's question provided the spark.
Megan started Fight Another Day, a nonprofit bringing mental health awareness and resources to schools across West Texas.
The idea took hold that early winter morning in 2021 as Megan's mother turned the car into the family's driveway. She had gone to check Megan out of the hospital for short-term psychiatric treatment.
Megan had tried to commit suicide.
Megan's world revolved around basketball, church and family.
Growing up in the small town of Ropesville, Texas, everyone was like family. The town's population could fit in a large lecture hall at Texas Tech, but Megan found that endearing.
“If you blink driving by, you'll miss it,” she said.
Megan lived with her parents, an older sister and a younger brother. Her father was a salesman, her mother an elementary teacher. Megan and her father spent copious amounts of time together on the basketball court.
Megan proudly wore green and white throughout grade school and into high school. Repping the Ropes Eagles on the basketball court filled her with pride. She even played on traveling teams.
A competitor at heart, Megan preferred team sports. She ran track and cross country, but the relay was her favorite event.
“Those team sports allow you to become a family,” she said. “There is a certain bond you feel winning and losing together.”
But Megan mostly won.
Her agility and athleticism solidified a full-ride scholarship to a junior college in Snyder. With plans to enroll at Western Texas College in the fall of 2020, Megan went into her senior year, head held high.
As her last semester of high school started, everything stopped.
Classes moved online.
Basketball games were canceled.
Senior year experiences became virtual.
With these changes, came changes within Megan. A usually fun-loving and happy teenager, a foreign feeling crept up on her.
“I felt depressed suddenly,” she recalled. “I didn't know if it was because of the pandemic or something else.”
When she looked around, it seemed everyone was depressed. So, she kept her feelings to herself, assured they would resolve. That summer before leaving for college, Megan's depression intensified.
A voice began to work its way into her head, suggesting things would be better if she wasn't around.
“These suicidal thoughts were so intrusive,” she said. “I couldn't shake them, no matter how hard I tried.”
Megan considered telling her family, but her grasp on what was happening was abstruse even for her; she worried others would think she was crazy. So she pushed the thoughts down and packed her bags.
She arrived at Western Texas College in the hottest days of summer to train with the basketball team. Their schedule started well before the academic calendar. Megan suddenly found the competition steeper, her teammates setting a high bar.
“It was totally different than high school basketball,” Megan said. “I was used to being the fastest on the court and now I was one of the slowest.”
Megan had the ability to change that, but she didn't have the resolve. What had been an outlet suddenly became a source of stress. With a proclivity for perfection, Megan soon found herself dreading practice and classes.
“Pressure had once been a good motivator for me, but now it felt like a crushing weight,” she said.
Megan struggled to decompress. She developed nervous ticks and an intolerance toward stimuli that never had bothered her before. Everywhere she went, she struggled to focus.
Desperate to be alone, she sat in her car most nights.
“Being in my car gave me the quiet I needed but it's also where a lot of dark, spiraling thoughts took hold,” she said.
With each night she sat in her car, a scene took shape in her mind a little more.
An out-of-control car, rolling, crashing.
“Before I knew it, I had a plan on how I would end my life,” Megan recalled, her hands clasped in her lap. “I didn't tell my teammates what was happening because as an athlete, you're supposed to be tough.”
But Megan knew someone who would understand.
One night as she sat in her car contemplating a drive out to the highway, she called her mother.
“I told her what I was thinking and how scared I was,” she said. “I was afraid of disappointing my parents because they were adamant about us all going to college.”
To Megan's relief, her mother immediately agreed she should come home and focus on getting better. But Megan still had to break the news to her dad.
“Basketball was our thing,” Megan said. “We spent my whole childhood playing one-on-one, having him coach my teams and he was so proud – telling everyone about his daughter's scholarship.”
Megan worried what would happen when she removed the thing their relationship had revolved around.
She heard her dad's voice on the line.
“Megan, I would rather know you're safe and happy than ever watch you play basketball again,” the voice said.
Tears fell down Megan's face.
Returning home only a few months after leaving, Megan started seeing a therapist. She was diagnosed with depression and put on medication to help with the intrusive, self-harming thoughts.
They didn't stop.
“Talking about things helped, but I didn't feel like the root of the issue was getting addressed,” she said.
Meanwhile, she applied to Texas Tech University. Her mother was an alumna and Megan grew up attending Lady Raider and Men's Red Raider Basketball games. While she knew she wouldn't be playing for Texas Tech, she determined she'd find a way to have a good experience as a Red Raider.
Leaving athletics behind, Megan declared a major in nursing.
“I wanted to work in hospitals, helping those in psychological crisis,” she said.
Megan had a depth of empathy to offer patients and wanted to make a positive difference. After one semester, though, she realized psychiatric hospital work was not for her.
“I wanted to know the patients and really see them improve, but a lot of the experience I got was based on medication and maintenance,” Megan said.
She wasn't sure what to do. She had imagined a future in hospital work. She was even working part time at University Medical Center as a health unit coordinator.
Feeling lost and aimless, she began to plummet.
For all the support she'd received since coming home, something still wasn't right. Her medication was not working. Her mind was reeling. Her thoughts were still betraying her.
As the biting cold of winter set in and Megan thought of the year ahead, excitement eluded her. She just felt exhausted.
Thoughts of a car crash came back to her mind. A plan began to form. Megan knew Loop 289 was barren during the early mornings. It would be void of interference and void of casualties, neither of which she wanted.
At peace with her plan, she turned in for her last night.
Early the next morning her alarm went off. Her dog Mikko stirred with the buzzing. Megan fed the dog his breakfast; a whole can of his favorite wet food.
She skipped breakfast.
As she got into her car, she was heartbroken for those she was leaving, but she was resolute. She turned the ignition of her car and made her way to the loop.
“I prayed,” Megan said. “I asked for forgiveness.”
She turned the radio on and set the station to worship music.
“I wanted lyrics about God to be the last thing I heard, and the first thing responders heard,” she said. “I wanted them to know my faith mattered to me.”
As Megan was praying, she looked in her rearview mirror. She would not allow anyone else to get hurt.
No one was there.
Megan took a deep breath, preparing to flip her car.
Her eyes flickered up one last time.
A car was behind her.
She blinked, confused by the sudden appearance. Nothing had been there seconds prior.
Perhaps she was seeing the reflection of streetlights.
She looked again. The car was still there. Headlights steady. The car followed Megan, not letting up.
Hot tears stung her face.
“I don't want to die,” she whispered.
One Foot in Front of the Other
After the early morning drive, Megan checked herself into Sunrise Canyon Hospital, a short-term psychiatric treatment center in East Lubbock.
A psychiatrist worked with Megan.
“Things started to click into place,” Megan said.
For starters, she had been misdiagnosed. After deeper assessment, Megan was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). The intrusive thoughts weren't caused by depression; they were obsessive in nature and depression medication was useless against it.
Once Megan was on the correct medication, she could tell a difference.
“I started feeling like myself again,” she said.
But medication was just one piece of the puzzle.
After leaving Sunrise Canyon, Megan also started seeing a new therapist. A clinical social worker, she not only helped Megan with her mental health, but also opened a world Megan didn't know existed.
Over time as the two worked together, Megan told her therapist she'd like to one day help others, too. Her therapist suggested Megan investigate studying social work at Texas Tech.
“It gives you many options,” the therapist told her. “You can counsel people, but you also can work in crisis intervention, community development, justice and corrections, and plenty more.”
This resonated with Megan.
The conversation came shortly after her ride home with her mother from Sunrise Canyon.
Her mother's words reverberated in her mind, “Why don't you do something about it then?”
“I was angry,” Megan said. “When I was in school, we were taught about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, but no one talked about mental health or the stigma surrounding suicide.
“When I started struggling, I had no tools to navigate those emotions.”
So, in addition to changing her major to social work and joining the College of Human Sciences, Megan started a nonprofit. She could have waited until graduating, but she felt students needed to hear from other young people.
“If I waited to have multiple degrees and a whole career behind me, I worry I wouldn't be able to connect with students as well,” she said.
The Stigma Will Fade Away…
Megan worked through the anger of not having the resources she needed. Now, she has turned that into a passion to change the narrative for other kids. What started with a Facebook post calling for anyone interested in mental health advocacy, has turned into a 501(c)3 with a board and staff.
If you ask Megan about leading her own nonprofit as a college student, she smiles and responds with, “Well, someone needed to do it.”
Megan has been healing from her journey for a few years now, but she remains close enough to those darker days that you can feel the raw emotion when she talks to middle and high school students.
Fight Another Day has a presence at many community events, but their focus is presenting at schools.
Megan starts by sharing her own story.
“I think it's important that teenagers hear from someone who is close to them in age,” Megan said. “I'm not their school counselor or someone their parents age.”
After Megan shares her story, Alicia Albus visits with the students and talks about ways to identify suicidal thoughts, emotional triggers and how to ask for help. Albus is a licensed professional counselor (LPC) and holds a master's in education.
The team wants to help students get past that hardest step: asking for help.
“We visit a lot of rural schools in the surrounding area,” Megan said. “In these settings, it's harder to ask for help because students question the anonymity and privacy of their outcry. I know I did.”
According to the National Rural Health Association, suicide rates have increased 46% in rural communities, compared to a 27% increase in metro areas.
Many factors contribute to these numbers, but Megan's lived experience leads her to believe that living in small-town America is a double-edged sword.
“Yes, everyone is like a family, but that comes with little privacy,” she said.
Megan and her team are working to ensure school counselors are well-trained, but they also provide students with other options, too. At the end of each visit, they give each student a business card-sized list of resources.
This allows students to place the card in a wallet or phone case and keep it on them.
After a recent presentation, a young student approached Megan.
“So, if I call this 988 number, someone will talk to me?” she asked.
“Yes, day or night,” Megan replied.
“OK, good. I need to talk to someone. I told my parents I felt depressed, and they told me I needed to pray more,” the student said.
This hit Megan hard.
“As a person of faith myself, God has been a big part of my healing journey,” Megan said. “But I also believe God gave us doctors, therapists and medication. Why can't those things be a miracle?”
For each presentation Megan does, she has a fan in the stands. Like each basketball game, her dad is there cheering her on.
“He never misses a presentation,” Megan beamed. “He comes and helps set up chairs and tears down after.”
As for school, Megan is flourishing in the social work program at Texas Tech. She has even joined a few intramural sports teams, reconnecting to her love of competition.
Last semester, she took “Intro to Social Work” with Debra Lavender-Bratcher.
“Everything I learn in class is immediately applicable to the nonprofit and vice versa,” Megan said.
Megan's professors have even asked her to present in class. Students responded with such enthusiasm, Megan has expanded her nonprofit to include a podcast, “A Day in the Fight,” which features other Texas Tech students.
Her story hits home with many college students who also come from rural towns. However, Megan's focus remains on middle and high school students, knowing they have far fewer resources than college students do.
When it came time to give the nonprofit a name, Megan pored back over journal entries she made, looking for inspiration.
She found this line.
“Maybe someday the stigma will fade away, so that kids will choose to fight another day.”