When Wyoming Shouldn’t Rule the Nation: Suicide

We’ve heard the numbers time and time again, the number one ranking that Wyoming doesn’t proudly display. First in the country for the suicide rate. A mortality rate of 32.3 percent. 190 suicides per 100,000 inhabitants, according to the CDC.

There are billboards about it. Several organizations, helplines, and community outreach programs are available for people struggling with mental health issues and suicidal thoughts.

But the rate remains high. “The stigma is enormous in Wyoming” said Cory Scimeca, professor of psychology.

The Laramie High School educator said she tries to normalize the topic of mental health care, taking medication, going to therapy and asking for help when needed. Again, “I still have a lot of cringe-inducing students.

Apples don’t fall far from trees, they say. “I also have a significant number of parents who are reluctant to ask their children for help! It puzzles me that they “don’t believe in therapy”. she added.

The stigma of a bootstrap state, from proud, independent people, really does have an effect. Scimeca asked a student in his class why we weren’t asking for help. “She said students are afraid to ask for help because they feel they will be judged or in trouble. She also said the cost of therapy was a huge factor.

Scimeca said LHS was trying to address the issue, despite obstacles such as Bill 138 which proposed suicide prevention in schools and did not pass. Although Parliament agreed to the creation of a suicide hotline, its funding fell through. Rep. Bob Nicholas (R-Cheyenne) wants the nonprofits to fund the empty trust account created for the hotline. Rep. Tony Locke (R-Casper) wants to wait until further research shows that a relatively inexpensive hotline would prove beneficial, despite the research that already shows it.

So Scimeca and others at LHS are implementing a program “focuses on building community and helping children learn to be self-advocates, use active listening, and take care of their mental health needs. We have Safe 2 Tell where students can report behavior anonymously.

A counselor recently contacted Scimeca, indicating that grants were available for suicide prevention. She asked her class if they would like to help with prevention and awareness efforts.

“Half of them immediately threw their arms up in the air. They want to help and want things to get better. The other half was a little reluctant, but I really think it’s just because talking about suicide is uncomfortable. I’ll see if I can get them back, but I would never force them to help me. When it comes to Psych, almost every student has been affected by suicide in some way, but they don’t know where to go for help. They really want things to get better, but I don’t think many of them know how to do it.

A suggestion from Scimeca: “We need to teach adults not to be afraid to tell children about it.

Brunch & Sparkling 2023

The annual SAFE Project of Albany County Brunch & Bubbly fundraiser was held on Sunday, August 27 at the Alice Hardie Stevens Center.

The event raises funds for SAFE, a Laramie nonprofit that advocates for victims of sexual and domestic violence.


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