UTPB head counselor: ‘Suicide stigma not acceptable’

Free counseling offered to anyone in the community


Amanda Salcedo

UTPB Ph.D. and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Literature and Languages Myra Salcedo (right), laughs at her late son, Daniel Ramon Salcedo (a car salesman at the time) demonstrating trunk room. June 19, 2018 will mark the fifth anniversary of her son's death. Salcedo said: "My son will forever be 37, the year that he took his own life. I am a suicide-prevention advocate, having aIso lost a younger brother to suicide. I applaud UTPB for offering free counseling to individuals and families for the entire community --everything from time management to grief counseling."

Staff Reporter, Staff Reporter

Myra Salcedo:

You may have a handbag that celebrity fashion maven Kate Spade designed. You may have gagged at some of the seemingly inedible foods that renowned Chef and World traveler Anthony Bourdain devoured with relish. But, like members of their own families, you may be aghast that Spade hung herself by a scarf from a doorknob and Bourdain was said to also have taken his own life when found unresponsive in a hotel room in France (during the shooting of an episode of the series of “Parts Unknown,” a CNN series). Spade left a suicide note, also according to CNN.


It’s a harsh word that often blames the victim for having “committed” the act, like a crime. Using the word “committed” creates an indicting stigma upon the victim according to a counselor and former facilitator for the “Survivors of Suicide Support Group” in Midland, Texas. I, my daughter and husband were a part of that group for more than a year. We read the book: Understanding Your Suicide Grief: Ten Essential Touchstones for Finding Hope and Healing Your Heart. We found comfort in the author’s advice and from a diverse group of West Texans who had lost loved ones from suicide. Too many people in the room to be imagined. However, that group has since disbanded.

It is coming up on the fifth year of the anniversary of my adult son’s death (June 19). His birthday would have followed July 23. He will forever be 37, and now his younger sister is older than he was when he died. Challenged by mental illness and severe depression, my only son obtained a gun from an Odessa pawnshop (with no background check) and no experience in handling a weapon, drove to a Midland Cemetery in the wee hours of a morning, climbed into the back of his Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) and fatally shot himself in the chest. The disastrous consequences that he left behind for a wife, children, a sister, parents, and a multitude of friends was chaotic. He had also planned the event to the point of sending suicide notes in the mail to each of close family members that we received after his death. Why did we not see it coming? My son thought that he was leaving a world that would be better off without him, and that family members would benefit from his life insurance. However, he did not realize the tremendous pain and heart-ache that would follow.

Maria D. Avalos: (see left-hand quotation)

For those who consider suicide, it becomes the solution to relieving unbearable pain they are experiencing. But the reality is that suicide does not make the pain go away; the pain simply transfers to everyone left behind, who will spend their lives coping with the aftermath”

— Maria Avalos


Under Avalos’s supervision, The University of Texas of the Permian Basin (UTPB) Counseling Training Clinic is offering counsel to the entire community free of charge from the most serious issues to reducing stress through time management and organization skills.

Dr. Maria D. Avalos is overseeing the UTPB Counseling Training Clinic.

Suicide prevention, however, is in the limelight. Avalos said: “More than 90 percent of people who die by suicide have an unrecognized or untreated mental disorder, most often depression and anxiety, both of which are highly treatable. However, more than two-thirds of people living with mental disorders do not seek any professional care because of the stigma associated with mental health issues. Research suggests that the social stigmatization of mental disorders can be more debilitating that the actual illness itself! This is not acceptable!”

Avalos, the UTPB Counseling Program Head, who oversees the clinic, is also a PhD, LPC-S, NCC, and CACREP Liaison. She added: “We can talk about diabetes, arthritis and cancer. Yet, mental illness continues to be shrouded in shame. Someone with cancer can freely seek treatment and will often receive outpourings of support from those around them. We need to talk about mental disorders and continue talking about them until anyone suffering can freely seek treatment without shame and receive the same outpourings of support.”

Avalos continued: “Research shows that talking about suicide decreases the actual risk! Eighty percent of people who die by suicide tell someone about their plans a week prior to their death, ninety-percent present multiple warning signs. Unfortunately, these individuals are often met with silence, minimizing or ridicule. We cannot continue to be silent when it comes to mental illness. We cannot continue to ignore the suffering of those we share our lives with.”

The UTPB Counseling and Training Clinic offers counseling to individuals, couples, families, and children and adolescents free of charge.

They can assist with topics including:

  • Anger Management
  • Anxiety
  • Bullying
  • Career Planning
  • Communication Skills
  • Coping Skills
  • Discipline/Behavior Problems
  • Divorce-Separation-Blended Families
  • Fears
  • Grief and Loss
  • Interpersonal Skills
  • Parenting Skills
  • Relationships
  • Relaxation
  • Self-Esteem
  • Stress Management
  • Study Skills
  • Time Management

All sessions are facilitated by counselor trainees. Sessions are private, confidential, and are supervised by trained licensed professionals and faculty.

In addition, Avalos noted: “We began seeing clients in the spring and it was a wonderful success. Clients can return to the clinic with a new counselor in the next semester if they desire. A note: 100% of clients from the community that participated are on the roster to see our counseling students again this semester. Lastly, all sessions are supervised by counseling faculty or licensed supervisors. We watch them live so that we can step in when needed for training and safety purposes. This also allows us to model techniques and interventions as well.”

Contact Dr. Maria D. Avalos at 432-552-2153 or [email protected] to complete an initial screening and to schedule an appointment.