Micah Berry, senior criminal justice major, died by suicide early Wednesday morning in an off-campus dorm.
Berry was a cadet in the Sam Houston State University ROTC where he served for nearly four years under the direction of Robert McCormick, lieutenant colonel and ROTC department chair.
McCormick said Berry was a reservist about to enter the Army on May 8 as a second lieutenant.
“He’s been working on it his whole adult life,” McCormick said. “I can’t even say adult life, he’s still a kid. He had his whole life ahead of him.”
McCormick said Berry had a 4.0 GPA and was in the top five academically in ROTC. Berry also served as one of two ROTC chaplains and was described by McCormick as a man of “strong faith.”
“He was very charismatic,” McCormick said. “His accent sounded like he was from New York, the Bronx area, but he was from Fort Worth.”
Cadet Sam Houston knew Berry since his freshman year when they lived just a few doors apart.
“Even when stuff wasn’t too fun and we didn’t want to be there, he would made jokes about it and make it more tolerable to be there,” Houston said. “You can ask anyone and they would say the same thing. He didn’t have a bad bone in his body and was an all-around awesome person.”
McCormick said alcohol was a contributing factor in Berry’s death.
Drew Miller, executive director of health and counseling services at SHSU, said the counseling center continues to make a presence at ROTC to help with the grieving process.
“It’s certainly a tragedy anytime a young person takes their life, because suicide of course is something that’s hard to understand or explain even when you know all the circumstances,” Miller said. “It can often times feel very frustrating for the folks who are left behind who loved and cared for that person, often times wishing they could have known so they could have done something to help. Of course it hurts the community that’s left behind as well who would’ve loved to be able to support that individual.”
SUICIDE RECOGNITION AND PREVENTION
Various campus officials spoke out about suicide prevention and how students, faculty and staff can identify those with suicidal tendencies.
“Of course anytime somebody is depressed, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to be suicidal, but one of the things we always look out for is if somebody is typically being cheerful, normally going about their business and then there’s a very sudden mood shift,” Miller said. “That kind of sudden mood shift can often times be concerning and indicative that there’s something else going on. Anytime somebody see less engaged, particularly if they’d been more socially connected and they start to isolate or withdraw from their support community, that can always be concerning.”
Miller said life circumstances, such as a breakup, diagnosis or job loss, can become traumatic and trigger suicidal tendencies.
“Something major like that can affect multiple aspects of their lives can sometimes be triggering for them,” Miller said. “Then of course if they’ve had any history of any other kind of mental health concern or possibly a family history of something of that nature that can be concerning as well.”
Dean of Students John Yarabeck pilots the Students of Concern, a program with the goal of faculty, staff and students helping identify those with mood shifts similar to those Miller mentioned.
Yarabeck said the program has been successful in preventing suicides in the past.
“We try to intervene before something like this happens and I can tell you that a number of times we’ve had very successful interventions,” Yarabeck said. “In fact, we’ve prevented three that I know of, students who were actually in the process of committing suicide. We were able to intervene through the Students of Concern team when they were actually trying it and ended up saving their lives in the seven years that we’ve been doing this. So it works. Hopefully, way before that with the warning signs we can get to them.”
‘IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING’
Both Miller and Yarabeck stressed the importance of communication between those who recognize suicidal tendencies in their peers and the parties who seek to prevent them.
“Suicide can be so subtle and sometimes there aren’t all those warning signs,” Miller said. “Anytime somebody is a little aware of something and they don’t make someone else aware of it, it’s a missed opportunity to intervene. So it’s that whole part about it, if you see something, say something, because you truly could save somebody’s life.”
Berry will be among fallen students and faculty honored at this year’s Raven’s Call.
“I would just certainly say that our thoughts and prayers are with these students and we will be including [Berry] in Raven’s Call,” Yarabeck said. “And I would just encourage students to just look out for their fellow Bearkats, and if somebody is withdrawing or seeming very depressed… reach out to them and try to get them to come to the counseling center and to get the help that they need. We don’t know the specifics of Cadet Berry but there are other people out there that are depressed and it might make a difference if someone lends them a helping hand and gets them over to the help they need.”
If you are or you suspect someone is contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.