This September, residents from all over Sheridan and Sheridan County will join together to walk in the fifth annual Sheridan Out of the Darkness Walk on  Sept. 12 at Whitney Commons Park Plaza.

The walk serves to bring hope and initiate conversation around suicide prevention.  This community event is free and open to the public, and is hosted by the Sheridan County Suicide Prevention Coalition.  The day’s schedule is as follows:  registration, music and speaking at 9 a.m.; opening ceremony at 10 a.m.; walk at 10:40 a.m.; and the Canary Joe Band and food vendors from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. We invite you to join us in walking to prevent suicide as a united Sheridan community — it’s free to register, free to walk and everyone is welcome.

Suicide Prevention starts with everyday heroes.  For many years, I incorrectly believed that preventing suicide was mainly the job of mental health professionals like therapists, social workers, school counselors and psychologists.  While the role of these mental health professionals is integral to supporting mental wellness in our community, it’s important that we all learn to recognize when someone is struggling and help them connect with mental health professionals.

While attending the University of Wyoming, my brother and I lost a long-time friend to suicide.  We had known our friend Tyrell many years — sharing classes, sports and life together.  Looking back, I now recognize that Tyrell exhibited many warning signs and risk factors for suicide.  Unfortunately, at the time I knew nothing of these warning signs and risk factors, nor did I know how to help Tyrell receive professional assistance — both of which can be learned in free suicide prevention trainings.

Since you cannot recognize and respond to a warning sign that you are not aware of, our Sheridan County Suicide Prevention Coalition offers free trainings.  I’m sure it comes as a relief to know that we don’t have to be “armchair psychologists” to save lives from suicide — but we can learn how to recognize when someone is struggling and learn how to ensure they get the professional help they need.  Suicide is often preventable, and the more people in Sheridan trained to recognize and get help for those who are struggling, the more lives we can save from suicide.

It will take all of us working together.  Already, many individuals and groups in Sheridan have recognized the importance of suicide prevention trainings within the past year, including:  many community members, Boy Scouts Troop 117, Welch Cancer Center staff, VOA Milestones Youth Home & Homeless Shelter staff, Sheridan Jaycees, RENEW, Eagle Ridge, Sheridan High School and Junior High teaching staff, Advocacy & Resource Center volunteers, Sheridan Health Center staff, the entire Sheridan County School District 1 staff, the entire Sheridan County School District 3 staff, SW-WRAP, NSI staff, Goose Creek Pediatrics, Sheridan Police Department, Wyoming Girl’s School, Sheridan Memorial Hospital Social workers, Sheridan Senior Center, Heritage Towers, KLife, members of Bethesda Church and St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Veteran Affairs staff, foster parents and Child Advocacy Services of the Bighorns.

Please consider walking with us on Sept. 12 or joining one of our free monthly suicide prevention trainings.

To learn more, or to schedule a free group training, please visit         sheridansuicideprevention.com.

Wendy Bruso is a community prevention professional at the Prevention Management Organization of Wyoming, Sheridan County Office. Center Stage is written by friends of the Senior Center for the Sheridan Community.  It is a collection of insights and stories related to living well at every age.