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Suicide in America-The Yellow Ribbon Program

In the Indiana State Legislature this year, a bill was passed that mandates that there be suicide prevention training for educators and that after June 30, 2013, an individual may not receive an initial teaching license unless they have completed training on suicide prevention. So locally, some type of suicide prevention program will need to be introduced. There are many varieties of programs that assist in suicide prevention and the one called the Yellow Ribbon Program is one that has had a lot of success.

The Yellow Ribbon program was founded in 1994 by the parents of a bright, funny, loving teen, Mike Emme, who took his life when he did not know the words to say or how to let someone know he was in trouble and needed help. "Don't blame yourselves, Mom and Dad, I love you." It was signed, "Love, Mike 11:45 p.m.". In a move that totally stunned all who knew him, Mike shot himself at a time of deepest despair. At 11:52 p.m. his parents pulled into the driveway behind the bright yellow Mustang, seven minutes too late.

The legacy started when Mike rescued a 1968 Ford Mustang from a field where it sat neglected. He bought it, rebuilt it and painted it bright yellow. As Mike and his Mustang became more and more active helping other teens and friends such as giving them rides to school and work, he became know as "Mustang Mike". Streams of stories began emerging of the help Mike had given so many people. A young mother whose car had broken down late one night, leaving her and her two small children stranded on a dark road prompted Mike to stop. He got her car started, then accompanied them home to be sure they arrived safely. A classmate told of how Mike had canceled his order for a new transmission and bought two used ones from the salvage yard instead so that his classmate could get his car running, too..

As the teens gathered to comfort the family, and each other, they discussed the tragedy of losing Mike. Mike's mom talked with the teens about creating mementoes that others could have to remember him with, and she decided that yellow would be used in honor of the cherished, yellow Mustang. In response, the teens asking "What can we do?", she told them: "Don't do this, don't attempt suicide. If you are ever at this point of despair, please ask for help!"

On the night before the memorial services, Mike's friends shared their grief and their tears as they pinned yellow ribbons on cards stating to reach out for help, to never commit suicide. Five hundred cards and ribbons were placed in a basket and set out at his service. All the ribbon cards were gone at the end of the service!

The Emmes tell adults that suicide is about pain. They tell students if you're ever in so much pain that you're considering suicide, hand a yellow ribbon card to a parent, counselor, teacher, minister or friend. The goal is to help them identify their pain and to break through the code of silence among young people.

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