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"Help and Hope through Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program" By Annie Valiando

“Stop, drop and roll” is a phrase drilled into our minds like the alphabet and number system; it has been repeated over and over again by parents, teachers and loved ones for a fire many of us will never see. What many kids, teens and adults have never been prepared for is how to handle when the fire within us stops burning or what to do to recognize these signs in others.

Did you know that nationally, 1 in 5 teens consider suicide and that 12 teens die by suicide every day? We should not accept these lives lost to suicide as irreversible facts, because death by suicide is a serious and preventable public and mental health crisis. The taboo around suicide creates silence; it’s toxic because no issue, mental health or not, can be resolved by avoiding the discussion.

Chino Valley Unified School District administration not only opened the door to Heritage Middle School last Friday, January 22nd ,but they also opened their minds to suicide prevention. Before the level-1 Yellow Ribbon training had even begun, it was clear that suicide prevention was not only important to the administration, but also to the students. It was an unexpected pleasure to discover heartfelt signs in the bathroom that read “You are loved” and “Bullying someone down will never help you reach the top.” While I am not originally from the area it became clear to me at this point that Chino Valley was the perfect place to kick off Yellow Ribbon Suicide Trainings within western Yavapai County school districts.

My name is Annie Valiando and I am an AmeriCorps VISTA member currently serving with West Yavapai Guidance Clinic (WYGC) Foundation in Prescott Valley, AZ as their Development Assistant. WYGC is a nonprofit provider of mental health, crisis and substance abuse services with treatment sites located throughout Yavapai County, being the leader in person-centered and self-directed treatment approaches for the past 50 years with over 7,000 people benefiting annually from their services. In 1986, the WYGC Foundation was created to support current WYGC programs and pursue new initiatives which continue to serve western Yavapai County and beyond.

 The Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program is a new initiative being brought to western Yavapai County school districts through WYGC Foundation efforts. The Foundation is proud to be able to help the community combat suicide, with the implementation of this nationally recognized best practice program. As the development assistant it is my duty to help raise money so that WYGC Foundation can continue to fund Yellow Ribbon trainings for free to all interested school districts.

Having been through the Yellow Ribbon training myself, I was excited to see how our WYGC Yellow Ribbon trainers would approach such a large group. When I received the Yellow Ribbon certification there was about 12 people in my group but on Friday there were 67 faculty members present from both Chino Valley High and Middle School. The school staff training was both energetic and inquisitive which made it a valuable learning experience and a pleasure to help facilitate. It quickly became obvious that bullying was an issue that was plaguing Chino Valley Schools, while this didn’t surprise me I was interested in the faculty’s perspective in contrast to what I noticed as a student back in my high school years.

 “The challenge we face is determining what bullying is and what it is not. We are trying to teach our students the difference between being bullied and growing up.”

Throughout the years the term “bullying” has become generalized, encompassing everything from malicious attacks to small solitary comments. In addition, bullying is not just on the playground anymore; it has evolved online where teens use anonymity to ruthlessly ridicule each other on sites such as With this being said, it is hard to determine who is truly being “bullied.” While everyone’s feelings matter and no one should ever make you feel bad about yourself, it is the individual who is systemically and chronically bullied who is at high risk for death by suicide. This particular discussion was the springboard for participation, commentary and questions.

Yellow Ribbon is not your average training; the trainers work hard to make it interactive. Personally, I have a short attention span when someone is reading verbatim off a PowerPoint, so I really enjoyed the interactive, game approach Matt and Sara utilized. My favorite portion of the Yellow Ribbon training was the “Ask 4 Help” segment which is the training aimed towards teens; it is during this time that Matt and Sara share their findings of a past training with juveniles in detention in the form a fun true or false game. The attendees were able to hold up red or green signs to answer true or false questions, and some would even yell out the answers. Many of the faculty was shocked to hear some of the answers that were shared by the teens in juvenile detention; thinking this group of teens are the “bad kids” the “trouble makers” there is no way they are bullied, they are the bullies…not the case.

Throughout the training course, the teachers were able to personally reflect and quickly become comfortable with their school’s protocol as well as the “Stop, drop and roll” of suicide prevention.

  • STAY with the individual
  • LISTEN, really listen, take them seriously
  • GET or CALL HELP immediately

I am beyond thrilled to be able to help West Yavapai Guidance Clinic Foundation fund and facilitate Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Trainings in western Yavapai County schools districts. The Yellow Ribbon trainings open the conversation about suicide in a non-threatening way, providing a simple solution to a very serious issue. Learn the signs; spread the word, save a life!

For more information feel free to contact me, Annie Valiando at

Published on February 01, 2016 by Spencer Brown.

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