GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – East Carolina University students are gearing up for spring break next week. Before that, Zac Clark, a former star on “The Bachelorette” and a recovery expert, spoke with students Tuesday about making safe choices.

“The mental health and substance abuse numbers are through the roof with death by suicide and overdose,” said Clark. “So there’s a lot of work to be done.

“And I believe that the power is really in the students, because counseling centers and the help that is available is so overrun, that the students really have this responsibility to help each other. And if they do that, I think we’re going to see serious change.”

Clark is celebrating around 11 years of being sober, but before getting to this point, he suffered from drug and alcohol abuse. He’s now the founder and CEO of Release Recovery, a substance use disorder and mental health organization based in New York.

According to Stephanie Cunnane, who is Clark’s publicist, he’s also the founding board member of Release Recovery Foundation. The organization is a nonprofit whose mission is to remove barriers to treatment for underserved communities through DEI and LGBTQIA+ scholarships. It’s mission is also to educate Americans about life-saving tools like NARCAN and to build a community to break the stigma around addiction and mental health.

“The event, you know, is really just geared towards preparing the students to go on spring break. Even if they’re staying at home or traveling somewhere, just to be prepared,” said Gwen Krause, ECU coordinator of well-being.

Clark earned national attention when he shared his own recovery story while on TV. Now, he uses his platform to raise awareness about recovery.

“I always think it’s super important when people use their platforms for these types of positive reasons, like a lot of people we put on these platforms,” said ECU student Skyler Dewall.

Clark said making safe choices doesn’t have to mean boring choices, especially during spring break.

“I think about how in-depth his addiction was,” said Kamaria Mahone, an ECU student. “It was just like, very like eye-opening, but also like very inspiring to see how he got out of it, and how now he looks to support others and help others.”

Clark stressed how important it is to just be kind and help those around you. Even the ones who look strong because we never know what people are going through.

To see more about Release Recovery, head to Release Recovery – Substance Abuse Disorder & Mental Health Services.

For more information on resources and tools for students at ECU, visit Well-Being at ECU. It’s strongly encouraged to get Narcan, which ECU provides for free, especially before spring break.