After nearly three years in development, the Wyoming Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention received its charter during the 3rd Annual Wyoming Out of the Darkness Walk in Sheridan on Sept. 8.
Wyoming consistently ranks in the top five states nationwide for suicide rates. As a result, in 2010, the Sheridan County Suicide Prevention Coalition spearheaded the effort to establish AFSP Wyoming.
The chapter development phase included the organization of three Wyoming Out of the Darkness Walks in Sheridan:
- The first Walk in 2010 drew 165 participants from across the state and nearly 30 sponsors, who helped raise more than $20,000.
- The 2011 Walk drew about 250 participants and more than 50 sponsors, including the Matthew Shepard Foundation, and they brought in over $24,000.
- More than 260 people participated in the 2012 Walk; they, along with 22 sponsors, raised more than $27,000.
In addition, the chapter’s first spring fundraiser, the Mattie Project Charity Date Auction in Casper on April 7, 2012, drew more than 100 young professionals, who helped raise nearly $25,000.
Perhaps most importantly, these events helped reduce stigma in a culture that traditionally has valued and encouraged stoicism, and countless people affected by mental illness and suicide have become empowered and found support and resources through their participation.
Chapter development also included the assembly of a 20-member board of directors from across the state. Under the guidance of Senior Director of Field Management and Development Mike Lamma, the group worked diligently over summer 2012 to meet final chapter requirements, and AFSP Wyoming received its charter from Mike during the opening ceremony of the 3rd Annual Wyoming Out of the Darkness Walk on Sept. 8, 2012.
With a full initial business plan that includes a Wyoming Lifekeeper Memory Quilt Program, the dissemination of “More Than Sad” throughout Wyoming’s school districts, and various postvention efforts, AFSP Wyoming looks forward to helping meet the goals and mission of AFSP, and the chapter remains committed to supporting and supplementing the suicide prevention efforts of the Wyoming Department of Health and grassroots initiatives across the state.