Wyoming’s Worthy: Grace For 2 Brothers’ Mission To Drop The Wyoming Suicide Rate
Every day, approximately 105 Americans take their own life, and 2,370 more attempt to do so.
Wyoming’s suicide rate ranks the 4th highest in the nation.
Rhianna Brand, along with Grace for 2 Brothers, is committed to changing those statistics. “Suicide is a hard topic to talk about, but it’s time to face the facts and work together as a state to find a solution.”
Grace for 2 Brothers (GF2B) was created by BJ Ayers after the loss of two of her three sons to suicide. Her mission was to offer support to grieving families and create an organization to help fund suicide prevention programs across the state of Wyoming. The organization began in Cheyenne, Brand and Ayers’ hometown, and has spread to several other cities across the state.
Brand was directly affected but the deaths of the Ayers brothers. “I knew all three of the brothers, I was close to them. Both the boys were active in sports. There was an entire group of us across the state that mourned them.” Brand left Wyoming briefly for Texas and when she returned there was an opening in the GF2B organization. The timing was perfect, and she has been a member of their staff for almost 4 years.
“I can’t talk about my work with GF2B without sharing my own story.” Brand is the survivor of three suicide attempts and recalls the first time she shared her experience. “It was in front of a group of 3,000 people. I was terrified, but after I spoke I was met with such compassion and gratitude, it was almost overwhelming. A weight was lifted off my shoulders and I saw that there was power in the connections that were made.”
Grace for 2 Brothers strives to make those connections across the state. One way they do this is through education courses for school children. Brand loves that these talks and courses allow teachers and family members to be the person she needed when she was struggling, but never had. It gives students, teachers, and families lessons in learning how to reach out, to think about who they can talk to before they have a problem. “It’s like giving them a box of tools. If they ever face the issues we discuss, they have the tools they need to help themselves or a friend. Whether it’s recognizing the signs of depression, knowing when there is a problem with addiction or even learning how to ask for help when they’re having a bad day. They’ll have the strength and resources ready if they need them.”
Another program offered is the Laramie County Loss Team. These specially trained volunteers (training lasts on average 6 months) go to be with families that are facing the death of a loved one by suicide. They offer support for the grieving families. Not just emotional support, but practical support as well like; how to contact relatives, planning a funeral, and biohazard clean up. There are also Hour of Grace support groups across the state for survivors of suicide.
“As of 2017 the state of Wyoming lost all of it’s funding for suicide prevention programs. Currently there is no crisis center in Wyoming, so people that call for help are often facing a wait time of 50 minutes and only 67% of the calls are answered. We need to change this, we need to have suicide prevention services that are tailored to our needs.”
Brand is working hard to bring awareness to Wyoming and erase the idea that there is shame in asking for help. Many people who are contemplating suicide are struggling with mental health and addiction issues. By helping educate our communities in what to look for AND teaching the citizens of Wyoming how to help each other (and where they can find help) slowly but surely we can make a difference.
On August 12, Grace for 2 Brothers will hold its annual Walk of Grace in Cheyenne. What began as an event with 250 people has now grown to over 2,000. “Anyone is welcome to participate in this walk and can sign up on the day of the event. There is an aspect of respect and remembrance to this walk, yet it’s also a celebration. There are mental health professionals and survivors. It’s a time to erase the fear and stigmas and allow people in our community to be a light for others to seek out in their time of need.”
Brand hopes that eventually the several suicide prevention programs across the state will unite together and become a self-sustaining lifesaving force. Until then, she encourages people to visit GraceFor2Brothers.com to educate themselves, share resources with friends and family members in need, and know that there are people here that care.
“When someone is suicidal it’s like they are looking at life through a straw, all they can see is the pain and what will end it. We need to widen their vision to see that there are other solutions and that their life is worth living.”
'Wyoming's Worthy' are Wyomingites that make us proud to call this wild and wonderful state our home.