Posted by Jesenia Hernandez, Communications Manager, Broetje Family Trust
Every day our bus would pick up my sisters and I at 6:40am. We would drive through the country roads, stopping every couple of minutes for students standing outside their orchard-surrounded homes. I knew everyone by name, I knew where they would sit, and I knew that something was wrong when Emily and Eduardo no longer showed up on the bus for what seemed like forever.
What I would later find out was that their dad had died by suicide. He was a farm boss, un mayordomo, like my dad. His kids and I were bonded by similar memories of four-wheeler rides and running down rows of apple trees. We knew every season from pruning to harvest and we could feel the pressure on our parents during each period. In a town where your closest neighbor lives one-and-a-half miles away, community is formed on the yellow bus that blends into the light of the sunrise on school mornings. I wish I had known how to talk to my friends when they finally stepped back on the bus, their house surrounded by trees and a “For Sale” sign.
This month is National Suicide Prevention Month – a time to raise awareness on this stigmatized, and often taboo, subject. Suicidal thoughts can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or background, and is of particular concern among youth and more isolated farming communities. We ask that you take some time today to think about those around you that may be feeling isolated or disconnected. What can we do to be there for our neighbors, loved ones and friends? How do we move beyond “I wish I had known” and feel empowered to speak up and reach out?
In support of National Suicide Prevention Month, please join us in raising awareness by talking to those you know, sharing this blog, or visiting WSU Skagit County Extension’s social media channels and sharing their posts. If you or someone you know is struggling, the Lifeline network is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text HEAL to 741741.
In May, we awarded our first Joe D. Shelton Memorial Award to Washington State University’s Agricultural Suicide Prevention Program. For information and resources on Farm stress, please visit: Suicide Prevention | Skagit County | Washington State University (wsu.edu)