The road from here to Cheyenne is long and often lonely. You can go miles without seeing anyone, and the landscape can be desolate.
The journey for people with mental health issues and suicidal thoughts is often long and lonely, too.
That’s why Terresa Humphries-Wadsworth is walking, one step at a time, toward Cheyenne: To raise awareness for suicide prevention.
Since leaving Cody on Sept. 1, she has walked more than 350 miles, braving the heat, wind and traffic on long stretches of highway. Humphries-Wadsworth is on track to reach the state capital by Friday — completing a 400-mile trek.
It’s in no way an easy journey, but it’s an important one.
Suicide rates are too high in Wyoming, a place where our independence and self-reliance can isolate people from the help and resources they need.
The Walk Across Wyoming illustrates something all of us need to know: We’re not alone.
In a tangible illustration of that truth, Kelly and Roy Eckerdt of Powell have traveled beside Humphries-Wadsworth on the walk, providing support and help along the way.
In a video Kelly Eckerdt recorded during the journey last week, she shared an alarming statistic: More than 44,000 people in America die by suicide each year, making it the 10th leading cause of death.
To put that number into perspective, it would be like an airplane full of 120 people crashing every day in the U.S.
“What do you think would happen? Do you think that maybe people would start looking into that? Why are these airplanes crashing? All of these people are dying,” Eckerdt said.
Unfortunately, people often don’t recognize the dire need for suicide prevention.
That’s why we’re thankful for efforts like the Walk Across Wyoming. The message of suicide prevention is getting out as Humphries-Wadsworth and the Eckerdts go to communities around the Cowboy State.
“People are having conversations about the walk and what does it mean,” Humphries-Wadsworth said in a video from Casper. “People are opening up about their own problems, and people are saying, ‘Oh yeah, me too.’ … The secrets that we’ve hidden inside are becoming OK to talk about.”
Along the way, miles have been dedicated in honor of people. Humphries-Wadsworth films the touching dedication videos near the highway as vehicles rush by and the Wyoming wind whips in the background.
For each mile dedicated, there is a real person, a story and loved ones left behind.
“It is our privilege to share your burden and help put voice to the love you have and also the pain,” Humphries-Wadsworth wrote Monday in a Facebook comment to a mother who lost her son to suicide.
We know that the mission to raise awareness for suicide prevention won’t end for Humphries-Wadsworth and the Eckerdts once they reach Cheyenne. They will continue to have important conversations, to share support and resources, to show people they’re not alone. And we hope that in communities across Wyoming, people continue to join them in working to prevent suicides.
The journey may be long, but it doesn’t have to be lonely.