Chalk it up: Suicide Prevention Awareness Month gets colorful help from local artists like you – Wadena Pioneer Journal


WADENA — Arlene Selander, president of the Rivers & Lakes Suicide Prevention Coalition, was out for a walk on Labor Day when she came across a colorful display of chalk art on the side of the road in Aitkin.

The art was simple yet powerful, “Tomorrow needs you!” it could be read in a myriad of pastels. It was a message that likely came through the efforts of Selander and the board that helped spark a simple idea across much of central Minnesota.

The Rivers and Lakes Suicide Prevention Coalition has started a chalk movement asking everyone to create a public display of chalk art that speaks to the often-taboo subject of suicide, as it is Prevention Awareness Month suicide in September.

“We were looking at how we could do something where people don’t have to spend a lot of time,” Selander said. They brainstormed and came up with sidewalk chalk art that can be done by anyone and seen by anyone.

The movement made its way to Wadena where Mahube-Otwa staff jumped at the chance to decorate their sidewalk along Jefferson Street in Wadena. It is filled with positive thoughts and reminds passers-by that they are not alone in their struggles. They will be creating new artwork throughout September and are asking the community to join them in making Wadena more colorful than ever.

“Mahube-Otwa loves being part of these group efforts,” Wadena office manager Stacy Carr said last week. She said that as a community action partner, they are focused on supporting people in their struggles and this project is very much in line with what they believe in.

“It’s just another event that we felt was necessary to spread the word, to help people,” Carr said. Carr explains that if Mahube-Otwa can’t help, they’re happy to find whatever help is needed.

Mahube-Otwa joins the charge to light up the city’s sidewalks with chalk art during the month of September as part of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

Michael Johnson / Pioneer Journal

Throughout the month, discover new creations on sidewalks throughout the Focus Area, which includes Aitkin, Cass, Morrison, Todd and Wadena counties. Businesses and families are encouraged to join the cause. Companies like Stomping Grounds in Staples have already donated regularly to this nifty cause.

During the month of September, draw or write a message of hope, awareness or promise on a sidewalk or driveway, then share your creation on the Rivers and Lakes Suicide Prevention Coalition Facebook page. There, everyone can see the messages of hope.

Selander said she got involved with this cause originally to focus on the mental health needs of veterans. Since then, it has expanded to raise public awareness of the stigma of suicide. Like many people know someone in the military, many also know someone who committed suicide. It is one more medium that can help reach those who need to hear this message and open the subject up for discussion by others.

“Slowly but surely we are moving forward and making it acceptable to talk about (suicide),” Selander said.

You can find more information about this initiative at Rivers and Lakes Suicide Prevention Coalition.

If you meet someone who feels hopeless, talks about suicide, and feels like a burden to those around them, seek or offer that person help.

The number of people who die by suicide each year worldwide is approximately 800,000, according to SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education). About 1 in 25 suicide attempts results in death, which means many more people have suicidal thoughts than most people will ever hear of.

Help is available. The national suicide prevention lifeline is now 988. You should also talk to your doctor or text SAVE to 741741 or call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 and, as always, call 911 in an emergency.

If you need chalk in Aitkin County – contact Arlene Selander ([email protected]), Cass County – contact Kristy Smart, Cass County Veteran Services Officer (218-947-7534), County of Morrison – contact Melanie Erickson, Morrison County Health and Human Services (320-632-0267), Todd County – contact Pete Berscheit, Todd County Veteran Service officer, (320-732-4418), and Wadena county – contact MAHUBE-OTTWA (218-530-1818). Selander Consulting generously donated sidewalk chalk for this project.


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