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Austin man struggles with suicide, gives back to community to raise awareness

Ricky Allen was diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was 15 years old. Now he shares his experience while hoping to help others.

AUSTIN, Texas — When Ricky Allen was just 15 years old, he started hearing a voice inside his own head.

“As I progressed, the voice got more and more fluid and talking more,” Allen said.

He knew something was wrong – but was afraid of reaching out for help.

“I didn't want to open up, I didn't want to reach out for help out of fear of being put inside a mental hospital or being labeled as a different guy,” Allen said.

The voice eventually turned into voices.

"Whenever I got wounded and injured in high school football, that's when things took a heavy toll,"  Allen said. "My junior year, that's when it manifested into three voices additional to that one."

Allen was relieved when he was finally diagnosed with schizophrenia because he felt comfortable telling his parents, siblings and close friends.

“If it wasn't for them, without the support, I don't know where I would be,” Allen said.

His parents got help from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Central Texas to find the tools and resources they needed to support Allen.

“Ricky's family is a perfect example of when a family knows what the resources are and can reach out, and how when they get connected and get the education and support that they need, they can navigate these crises with a lot more confidence and being a lot more informed,” said Karen Ranus, executive director of NAMI of Central Texas.

NAMI offers free classes and support groups to help people struggling.

“I can't help but smile when I think about Ricky because I have seen the progression of his engagement in the community and getting an opportunity to share his story,” Ranus said.

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Allen now shares his story with the community, which in turn helps him.

“It’s self-medicating for me to, like, let me reflect on where I've been, but also giving hope and guidance for somebody else who is going through the same struggles that I went through,” Allen said.

He is encouraged by helping people and sharing some of the resources he’s been given.

“Seeing what I went through, I'm very thankful that I'm still here,” Allen said.

NAMI of Central Texas will host a NAMIWalk on Sept. 28 to break the stigma that comes with mental illness. The walk goes from The Long Center to the State Capitol and is open to the entire community. The event is free and donations are accepted.

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