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Suicide prevention message hits the road

Apr 7, 2013 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

Fort Washakie High School students appear in new billboards along Wyoming highways 789 and 26.

The suicide prevention awareness initiative that began as a public service announcement continues for a group of reservation high school students who have taken the media campaign to highways in Fremont County.

Two billboards were put up Tuesday along Wyoming highways 789 and 26.

The Fort Washakie High School students celebrated the placement of the new billboard located near the intersection of Highway 26 and Cooper Road by visiting the site and welcoming community members Wednesday.

"(The) Eastern Shoshone Suicide Prevention program strongly encourages the youth to take healthy risks by doing the promotions and sharing their personal experiences in an effort to prevent suicide and safely talk about (it) through awareness activities such as this media campaign," said Glenda Mitchell, the coordinator from the ESSP program.

Starting in October, several students received training in a nine-week bullying and suicide prevention program.

"It means a lot to me," Jamal Tarness said as he looked up at the billboard.

He is one of the students who appears on the billboard, and he said his past experience with the suicide of his grandfather convinced him to involve himself more with the program. He also said he looks forward to teaching younger students about the warning signs of someone who may be thinking about suicide. The students will be visiting schools in the county to pass on the message.

"The schools are really working with us to put this out there," Mitchell said. "We want our community to know that there are resources out there if they want help."

The billboard shows Jonathen Jarvis, Darin Surrell and Jamal Tarness surrounding the logo that represents honor, life and intuition, the symbols of the program.

The billboards will be up until the end of April, and the initiatives won't stop there. Beginning in June, a trash pick-up community service project will take place along highways in Ethete and Fort Washakie, a day that will end with a barbecue and games. Also, a trip to Denver will be dedicated to honoring the youth, Mitchell said, "for all their efforts and courage."

The fourth annual Suicide Prevention Awareness Walk will take place in September. ESSP will also be asking for essays written by students on suicide prevention. Writers of the best essays have a chance to win an iPad.

St. Stephen's Indian High School students will welcome the other billboard on Highway 789 after they return from spring break.

After the billboards come down, they will be placed at Fort Washakie and St. Stephen's Indian High School.

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