suicide

Melodie Edwards

Kids and horses gather on a dusty riding ground on a ridge overlooking the snow-capped Wind River Range. Northern Arapaho Social Services Director Allison Sage starts the day’s ride as he always does: with a prayer and introductions.

“We’re using Arapaho language,” he says. “We’re saying nee'eesih'inoo. That means ‘my name is.’ So you say, nee'eesih'inoo and then how you feel.”

Matthew Shepard Foundation

Family members and law enforcement in Gillette fear that the bullying of a gay man in Gillette may have led to a suicide. The issue has once again drawn concern about a variety of issues, including the treatment of LGBT people in the state and whether a hate crime is needed. Jason Marsden is the Executive Director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation and we caught up with him this week as he spoke in Gillette. 

Miles Bryan

A few weeks after Cody officer Seth Horn went through Crisis Intervention Training, or “CIT,”  he went out on a call to see a man who was potentially suicidal.

“I started speaking with this person, and some things were lining up with the report that we got,” Horn said in a department conference room. “And then, using the training, I started to ask some very specific questions.”

Miles Bryan

Gillette mother Trish Simonson never wanted a tattoo. That changed when her son Kaden died by suicide last May. Now her left wrist is adorned with a Bible verse and a semicolon symbol, along with some text.

“It says Kaden: 5-8-15,” she said with her arm turned out. “And, ‘ask my story.’”

Trish’s twenty-five-year-old daughter Ashley has a fresh tattoo as well. She and her brother both loved Harry Potter, so a “Patronus”—a mythical creature from the books—is now inked on her right arm.

Wikimedia Commons

This month is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and organizations across Wyoming are taking the opportunity to shed light on the issue. One of those is the Natrona County Suicide Prevention Task Force, which is hosting a statewide conference on suicide prevention this week.

UW

It’s been a tough year at the University of Wyoming. Several students there died, including two deaths by suicide in about a week. 

By the time UW students return from summer break, a new plaza will be built, commemorating all students whose lives were cut short while they were enrolled at the University.

The project was approved by the Associated Students of UW two years ago. The group’s vice president, Emily Kath, says it seems even more appropriate now, following this year’s tragedies.

Aaron Schrank

One week after the most recent death at UW, Animal Science Professor Dan Rule is in the Student Union with 20 others discussing symptoms of depression and warning signs for suicidal thinking. Rule says he’s here because he cares about his students.

“I don’t care if they’re an 18 or 19-year-old, or if they’re a 40-year-old non-traditional student or even if they’re a veteran,” says Rule. “They’re my kids when they’re in my room.”

The Wyoming Senate has given initial approval to a bill that would require each teacher and school administrator to undergo eight hours of suicide training every four years.  Wyoming has one of the nation’s highest rates of suicide, and Senate Education Chairman Hank Coe says they want school officials to look for possible signs in an effort to prevent suicide.

“It is a serious problem," Coe said. "If we can go out with something like this and recognize a couple of…I mean just one…prevent one and its worthwhile.

Tuesday is World Suicide Prevention Day, and Wyoming consistently has one of the highest rates of suicide in the nation.

Middle-aged men are the most likely to commit suicide, and the Prevention Management Organization of Wyoming has been conducting a pilot media campaign to encourage them to seek help.

In light of Wyoming’s high suicide rate, the state Legislature’s Joint Education Committee has voted to draft legislation that would implement the Jason Flatt Act in the cowboy state. It would require all school teachers to participate in a two-hour suicide prevention training every year to maintain their licenses.

Wyoming had the highest suicide rate in the country in 2012.  Joint Education Committee co-chairman Senator Hank Coe says it’s an especially tough issue in his district. Six people in Park County have taken their own lives so far this year.

Wyoming has one of the highest rates of suicide in the country … nearly twice the national average. Until recently, efforts at preventing suicide were left up to individual counties. But now, the state is trying a new tactic which they hope will save more lives. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.

We’re joined now by BJ Ayers. Not one, but two of her sons killed themselves … and since then, she’s dedicated her life to trying to prevent suicide. She started the Grace for Two Brothers foundation and is now the suicide prevention coordinator for southeast Wyoming. Her son Brett was 19 when he died in 2005.

Wyoming Department of Health

The Wyoming Department of Health is hosting a series of webinars about suicide prevention, starting in early March.

The agency’s Keith Hotel says the sessions are open to the public and are geared toward people who have little knowledge about suicide prevention.