Festival of Hope mobilizes community resources around suicide prevention

Sydney holds the hot air balloon station at the Festival of Hope, hosted by JR’s Hunt For Life (Gregory Hirst, Oil City)

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)

CASPER, Wyo. – We may never know what life-changing and life-saving relationships were made Saturday at the Festival of Hope, but Jenny Hunter, founder of suicide prevention charity JR’s Hunt for Life, told Oil City that was not the point. .

“The thing is, we offered hope,” she said.

Now in its second year at The Lyric, the free event brought together counsellors, community health care providers, and addiction and recovery specialists to provide the public with the full range of local resources that deal directly with suicide or target another aspect of mental and mental health. physical health.

Local musician Chad Lore, Dream Upon a Princess superheroes, therapy dogs and mini horses also enlivened the event with photo ops and impromptu dances.

Festival of Hope at the Lyric, organized by JR’s Hunt For Life (Gregory Hirst, Oil City)

From his post at the entrance, Lore remarked that people’s general dispositions seemed brighter when they left than when they arrived.

“Just going out and talking to people — not even about the situation, just saying ‘hi’ — will change your whole outlook on life,” Lore said.

“It’s so important to bring people together on things like this,” he added. “Suicide affects everyone, really. Everyone here has a story.

Conversation and connection are key to addressing feelings of isolation, guilt and shame associated with suicidal ideation and consequences for those affected, Hunter said.

“As a population, we are starting to break down the stigma, and we are coming together and talking more openly,” she said, but added that there is still a lot of work to be done.

Awareness and education are key factors in mitigating suicide risk in the community, said Lance Neiberger, chair of the Natrona County Suicide Prevention Task Force.

Festival of Hope at the Lyric, organized by JR’s Hunt For Life (Gregory Hirst, Oil City)

“We had 33 suicides in the county last year,” Neiberger said. “With this high number, I would love to see more people reach out. Every time we host an event, we reach out further and deeper into the community.”

Hunter, the task force and other community organizations offer a 90-minute questioning, persuasion and orientation training that enables people to recognize and practically resolve a situation where someone is in crisis or facing to suicidal thoughts.

“Every person should have this training,” said Tina Sterken, director of faith-based support group Neverforgotten77.

While access to professional resources can be essential, Neiberger said there’s an intervention anyone can do in the short term.

“The most important thing is to listen and really listen,” Neiberger said. “And don’t try to fix it.”

He added that some people are reluctant to get involved because they feel they own part of the problem.

“They don’t have to take it on, they don’t have to provide answers and solutions, because they can’t,” Neiberger said. “If you listen, you’re doing exactly what they need.”

Natrona County Rep. Pat Sweeney at the Festival of Hope (Greg Hirst, Oil City)

Compassion is also central to everyday suicide prevention, he said.

“I can’t tell you how many times kids came up to me after the programs and said, ‘I was going to kill myself. [particular] day, and someone in the hallway who I thought didn’t even know me said, “Hi.” … Such a simple act, and that person will never know the difference they made, but those children will say, ‘I changed my mind.’

That sentiment was echoed by Jenny’s granddaughter, Sydney, who produced a video that was shown throughout the event in one of the theaters.

“Lately I’ve been very concerned about trying to smile everywhere I go because it really impacts someone,” she said. The compliments go that far.

These are hard-won strategies. JR’s Hunt for Life began following the loss of his uncle and Hunter’s son, Ray, to suicide in 2015.

“We were all new to this,” Sydney recalls. Since then, her family has been dedicated to helping others recognize and overcome the mindset she calls “mud.”

“It warms my heart so much that thanks to him we have this.”

In case of emergency, dial 911.

Natrona County Resources:

  • Support groups
      • 1st & 3rd Thursdays, 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
      • 1032 E. First St., Casper, Wyoming
      • Contact: Lance Neiberger @ 307-258-6143
      • Thursday, 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
      • Calvary Chapel Casper: 1725 S. Jackson Street (basement)
      • Contact: Tina Sterken @ 307-337-7763 or Mark Sterken @ 307-251-8231
    • JR’s hunt for life
      • 2nd Wednesday, 5:30 p.m.
      • Club 1224: 500 S Wolcott St., Casper, WY 82601
      • Contact: Jenny Hunter @ 307-259-6032
      • Bereavement support group for children and adolescents
      • Every other Tuesday, from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
      • 1200 E. 3rd Street, Casper, WY 82601
      • Contact: Mari Manthei Robinson @ 307-277-5667
      • Monday Evening — Eight-Week Course, 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
      • Contact: Terry Crabb at 307-258-1615