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EDITORIAL: Suicide prevention and awareness efforts as important as ever

Local prevention employees losing jobs due to budget cuts

It’s well known that Wyoming’s budget cuts significantly affected community colleges and K-12 education. But did you know that suicide prevention funding also took a major hit?

The Wyoming Department of Health recently eliminated its contract with the Prevention Management Organization of Wyoming (PMO), which provides suicide prevention efforts across the state. The Department of Health will now oversee those efforts. The department will use tobacco settlement funds because the Legislature trimmed a significant portion of prevention money earlier this year, according to the Casper Star-Tribune.

We hope the reduction doesn’t negatively impact the good work that’s been done to prevent suicides in Wyoming. However, we worry that with budget cuts, it will be difficult to carry on this important work at the same level.

In recent years, PMO has trained 45,000 Wyoming residents — who make up roughly 8 percent of the Cowboy State’s population — on how to watch for suicide warning signs, according to the Star-Tribune.

“Now having a much more limited ability to have that support at a community level is going to be a challenge for everybody doing suicide prevention,” Keith Hotle, the CEO of Prevention Management Organization, told the Casper paper last month.

Even though the funding outlook is bleak, we’re glad to see that the budget cuts haven’t dampened local PMO employees’ efforts to raise awareness for suicide prevention.

Terresa Humphries-Wadsworth of Cody and Kelly Eckerdt of Powell are planning to walk more than 400 miles from Cody to Cheyenne in September to raise awareness for suicide prevention in Wyoming.

The journey is about connection, Humphries-Wadsworth said.

“It is about bringing a voice to the silent and connection to the lost,” she said. “It is about encouraging those who are struggling and comforting those who grieve. It is raising awareness that struggle is part of the human condition, but you don’t have to do it alone.”

Even though their jobs are ending due to state budget cuts, Humphries-Wadsworth and Eckerdt remain committed to a cause that’s dear to their hearts. We commend their efforts, and encourage others to get involved.

A major part of the battle of suicide prevention in Wyoming is the stigma surrounding mental health conditions. Stigma is when someone views a person negatively just because they have a mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). That can lead to discrimination, rejection, bullying and isolation.

We all play a part in eliminating the stigma. NAMI offers the following steps toward being stigma free:

  • Educate yourself and others. Know the facts and reject the stereotypes. “Understanding mental health isn’t only about being able to identify symptoms and having a name for conditions, but dispelling false ideas about mental health conditions as well,” NAMI said.
  • See the person, not the condition. In America, one in five people live with a mental health condition. Get to know the person, treat them with kindness and empathy. They each have their own story and journey.
  • Take action. Push for better legislation and policies to improve lives for everyone. Lend your support, and show this cause is important to you.

You can start by supporting Humphries-Wadsworth and Eckerdt’s Walk Across Wyoming journey. More information on how to get involved can be found at www.walkacrosswy.com.

Every life matters. As a community, let’s take steps to ensure everyone has the support and resources they need.

1 comment

  • posted by Rob Johnston

    May 31, 2017 7:30 am

    They are 2 of my heroes.

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