WHEATLAND – During the 2020 Envision that was held for Platte County high school students Sept. 28 at Wheatland High School, the day was dedicated to bringing forth challenges that teens of this generation are facing and more importantly are not always able to get the victory over.
One of the seminars that was given that day to teens was simply entitled “suicide prevention,” and was taught by suicide prevention advocate and suicide survivor Rhianna Brand from Cheyenne, Wyoming.
She is also an advocate and one of the stories featured on the website, “Live Through This,” which according to her site, was established in 2010 as a collection of portraits and true stories of suicide attempt survivors across the United States.
“Suicide, according to the Live Through This website is that “We don’t know how to talk about it, and we’re afraid to think about it. Whether we avoid it or confront it head on, the truth is that suicide does not discriminate. Over 1 million Americans attempt suicide each year. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. It kills over 100 Americans every day, and nearly 50,000 of us every year.”
Brand taught five classes that morning and seemed a bit stressed that there simply wasn’t enough time in 45-minute sessions to bring forth of message of such incredible weight.
The tragedy of any person being bullied, abused or depressed to the point of choosing to depart from life is certainly a socially heinous event. We want to look away. We want to hush it up. We want it to go away.
But their voices are calling to us from the grave. The cries for help didn’t stop at their moment of death, and with that act of suicide they are pleading with us to do something. Peer pressure is just one button that is being pushed in our young people’s lives. There is pressure to succeed, pressure to find themselves in a world telling them how to fit in, pressures from relationships and thoughts that are sealed in their minds like a pressure cooker making things seem worse than they really are.
Brand was the former director of “Grace For 2 Brothers Foundation” which is an educational organization dedicated to the advocacy of suicide prevention through awareness and education around the state of Wyoming. She currently is also the Director of Partner Services for the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce.
She told the classes that she actually started her journey into mental health at the age of nine, but she shared only the last attempted suicide which was when she was 20. As the now 35-year-old spoke to the quiet groups of students, it was evident that most if not all had been touched in one way or another by suicide. Either secretly wanting to go through that dark door or perhaps knowing someone who has.
She spoke of the effects of depression and bipolar disease on the brain, she gave reasons why people turn to suicide and more importantly. She spoke candidly about her own journey down scary corridors that she didn’t know how to escape from. She talked about triggers and habits and ways to numb the pain. But most of all, she gave options to turn away from even the thoughts of suicide to a life that can be abundant with joy and full of purpose.
Kids walk away from her seminar with hope. She provides that gift. And she is a walking miracle that proves you cannot only walk away from the pain, but that you can walk into a different mindset and a different life that is far removed from the narrow tunnel vision of suicide that provides only one door to go through when you are hurting.
Brand is an educator, first and foremost who has discovered and developed weapons to fight back. She talks about education, meditation, nutrition, activity and giving of yourself to others. These, she cites as keys to overcoming. To “dancing in the rain,” if you will.
One of the props that Brand brings out during her sessions is her hula hoop. For others, the “hooping” may be jogging or biking or golf.
“So, this is the greatest coping skill I’ve found,” she says as she hangs her hula-hoop over her shoulders. “Because I lived with a dissociation, or when my brain checked out and said, ‘good luck down there.’ Hula-hooping is a tool where I have to be fully physically present in order to keep this guy going around. When I dissociate, I’m not here. But when I hula-hoop I am fully present.”
She spoke of touching reality. Reaching out and touching the tangible instead of being still and listening to whispers in her mind and paths that cause the mind to wander.
“First and foremost, every morning when I wake up, I spend about 30 minutes on myself,” Brand said. “I journal, I do some reading, devotionals or a positive motivational blog. Something to fill my cup before trying to go out and fill everyone else’s.”
“I would also love to have people plan things that they can look forward to,” she said. “For instance, traveling.”
She advocates the tool of anticipation.
“I watch what I eat and what I am putting into my body,” she said. “Nutrition and supplements are great tools to help the body function at peak performance. It will also give you the strength you need to do the physical activities rather than living a stagnant existence.”
And finally, she advocates communication over silence. To find someone to talk to and trust is invaluable.
“Helping others, she said. “You cannot help another person without feeling good yourself. So, find your local soup kitchen or homeless shelter or animal shelter. You could be a professional puppy cuddler. Do something outside of yourself.”
To educate the world is to provide life-saving knowledge. Brand does this. She is exhaustive in her research and to put someone who is hurting with someone who has survived the hurt is invaluable. To help find a way is to help find a cure. Instead of silence, we need solutions. Instead of inflicting shame, we need to make a stand with those affected. Instead of an evasive nature, we need to be educators.
Brand’s full testimony appears on Live Through This: https://livethroughthis.org/rhianna-brand/.
1-800-273- 8255 is the National Suicide Hotline and the call center in Wyoming as of June is available through that number. Also you can text “WYO” to 741-741 for the Crisis Text Line.
The full interview with Rhianna Brand can be seen in its entirety on a future episode of HOMESPUN, the PC Record-Times and Guernsey Gazette weekly digital television program for people in Platte County. For more information about our television program, please go to www.pcrecordtimes.com.