This weekend I attended the Walk of Hope held at Allison Park.

This weekend I attended the Walk of Hope held at Allison Park.

It was a sobering experience to be surrounded by people who have had to overcome a tragic death of a loved one by suicide.

To help me better understand, I picked up several brochures about suicide prevention. The one that caught my eye was a brochure explaining how the Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention program came into existence.

Sadly, it was founded in 1994, by the parents of a teen, Mike Emme, who took his own life.

In his last words he wrote a note to his parents saying, “Don’t blame yourselves, Mom and Dad, I love you.”

It was signed, “Love Mike–11:45 p.m.”

His parents pulled into the driveway behind Mike’s bright, yellow mustang–seven minutes too late.

The yellow ribbons were started when Mike’s Mom talked to his grieving friends about creating mementos that they could have to remember him with. She decided that a yellow ribbon would be used in honor of the cherished yellow mustang that became a symbol of Mike himself.

The legacy started when Mike rescued a 1968 Ford Mustang from a field where it had 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, giving them rides to and from work and school, he became known as “Mustang Mike.” 

Mike’s Mom told the teens, “don’t do this, don’t attempt suicide. If you are ever at that point of despair, please ask for help!” 

Those grief-stricken teenagers listened and made cards with the message to reach out for help, to never commit suicide and that it’s OK to Ask4Help.

Yellow ribbons became a symbol of the program when the teens began tying them to their hair and pinning them to their clothes on the day Mike died. Yellow is in memory of his cherished ‘68 yellow mustang. The heart in the middle of the ribbon is the symbol of the survivors left behind when a loved one dies.

At Saturday’s event, survivors were given yellow balloons that many wrote loving messages on to release during their walk around the bike trail.

Before the balloons were distributed, Emily Kelley, a Certified Health Education Specialist and trained presentor for the Brown County Yellow Ribbon program, told the large crowd gathered, “We release the balloons as a symbol that, ‘I will never forget, but I will remember to live.’” 

A group of teens from New Ulm was at the event to perform a depiction of what depression can look like. After the performance I had a moment to talk to them and ask them why they think SPOTS (Students Performing on Tough Situations) is important. You can read their responses at the bottom of this page.

Surprisingly, many of these teens have experienced depression or know of someone who has. This is there way of helping.

Out of this entire experience and from what I’ve recently learned, I can’t stress enough that no one should struggle alone.

The Yellow Ribbon cards say it best: This ribbon is a lifeline! It carries the message that there are those who care and will help! If you are in need and don’t know how to ask for help, take this card to a counselor, teacher, clergy, parent or friend and say: I need to use my yellow ribbon! 

Suicide is a tragic event with strong emotional repercussions for its survivors and for families of its victims. Don’t let yourself or someone you love become a memory at a Walk of Hope event.