Yellow Ribbon founders speak to WHS students, faculty about suicide prevention

According to the founders of Yellow Ribbon, even at Wabaunsee High School, students are at risk of committing suicide.

The Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program is an international program dedicated to preventing suicide by making information accessible to anyone and removing barriers for people seeking help.

The program began in 1994 out of Westminster, Colorado, with a group of teens seeking to honor their friend Mike Emme, 17, who was found dead in the backseat of his yellow Mustang after committing suicide. When friends and family reached out to parents to offer their condolences and see if there was anything they could do to help, the Emmes’ response was always the same: “Please,” they would plead “if you’re ever in this much pain, ask someone for help.” After realizing how much those words had impacted the people in their community, the Emmes had the message printed on bright yellow paper (in honor of their son’s car) to be handed out at his memorial, which launched the Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program.

Dar Emme speaks to WHS students about the founding of the international Yellow Ribbon program. Dale and Dar became involved in suicide prevention after their son, Mike committed suicide at 17 years old. The program seeks to raise awareness of suicide risks and provide support for struggling individuals.

Wabaunsee has recently adopted its own chapter of the Yellow Ribbon Program, sponsored by Marilyn Workman and Annie Frank. With about 20 members, WHS Yellow Ribbon has lots of plans for this year, including educating junior high and high school students, being present at community events, hosting speakers, implementing a Yellow Ribbon Night at a basketball game, fundraising and ensuring that resources are available to students who may be struggling in or out of school. WHS Yellow Ribbon kicked off this school year by bringing Dar and Dale Emme to present to students and members of the community September 16-17.

Cofounders of the Yellow Ribbon Program, and parents of late Mike Emme, Dar and Dale Emme have been featured in People Magazine, Teen People, and Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul, and have appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Good Morning America, and the Today Show. The Yellow Ribbon Program has expanded to every U.S. state, every province of Canada, and several countries in Europe, Africa, and Australia.

The Emmes came to WHS to speak about suicide prevention, and the importance of getting involved. They spoke to staff members and members of WHS Yellow Ribbon Monday morning for an intense training on how to be a link for people who are struggling. Students from Wamego and Mission Valley High School also attended. They talked about warning signs and risk factors of depression, and what steps to take if you find out that someone you know is considering taking their life. After the training, Dar and Dale helped students plan activities for the rest of the year and set goals for their individual clubs.

Junior Jordan Magette presents goals for the Yellow Ribbon club during a workshop September 16. Yellow ribbon members from Wabaunsee, Mission Valley and Wamego gathered to learn how to bring the Yellow Ribbon program to the community.

“I thought it went really well, and was a good learning experience… We came up with some really good ideas for the rest of the year,” said Yellow Ribbon ambassador Justice Houston.

— Kendyl Bolinder, @BolinderKendyl

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