Founders Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program International
Host: Basima Farhat
Previously Aired On: Tuesday, March 16, 2010 – Listen to the Show!
Dale and Dar Emme founded the Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program International in 1994 after losing their youngest son, Michael, age 17 to suicide. The Yellow Ribbon Program is being used throughout the world as a simple, effective tool to save lives. Speaking throughout the US, Canada and Australia, the Emmes’ are helping raise awareness about the epidemic levels of youth suicide and are bringing focus, action, intervention, postvention and coalition building to suicide prevention efforts in many communities. Together they have written and published the story “I’ll Always Be With You” which appeared in the Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul book. They are currently working on a manuscript, “Legacy of the Yellow Mustang” about their travels throughout the world, work with youth who have attempted suicide, and families who have lost loved ones to suicide. Dale and Dar were appointed to the Colorado Governor’s Suicide Prevention Advisory Commission in 1998 and founding members of the National Council for Suicide Prevention.
ABOUT Yellow Ribbon Program…
The Yellow Ribbon program was founded in 1994 by the parents of a bright, funny, loving teen, Mike Emme, who took his life when he did not know the words to say, or how to let someone know he was in trouble and needed help.
“Don’t blame yourselves, Mom and Dad, I love you.” It was signed, “Love Mike 11:45pm”. In a move that totally stunned all who know him, Mike died-by-suicide at a time of his deepest despair. At 11:52pm his parents pulled into the driveway behind that bright yellow Mustang, – seven minutes too late!
The legacy started when Mike rescued a 1968 Ford Mustang from a field where it had sat neglected. He bought it, rebuilt it (as he had others) and painted it bright yellow. As Mike and his mustang became more and more known for his mechanical ability and for helping other teens and friends – giving them rides to and from school and work he became known as “Mustang Mike”.
Streams of stories began emerging of the help Mike had given to people. A young mother’s car had broken down late one night, leaving her and her two small children stranded on a dark road. Mike stopped and showed her his driver’s license to assure her he would not harm them, got her car started, then accompanied them home to ensure they arrived safely.
A classmate told of how Mike had canceled his order for a new transmission and bought two used ones from the salvage yard instead so that his classmate could get his car running too.
As the teens gathered to comfort the family, and each other, they discussed the tragedy of losing Mike. Mike’s mom talked with the teens about creating mementos that others could have to remember him with, and she decided that yellow would be used in honor of the cherished yellow mustang. In response to teens asking what can we do?, – she told them, ‘don’t do this, don’t attempt suicide’. ‘If you are ever at this point of despair., please ask for help’! Kids took notes! Cards were made with the message to reach out for help, that It’s OK to Ask4Help!
On the night before Mike’s memorial services, his friends shared their grief and their tears as they pinned ribbons on the cards. Five hundred ribbon cards were placed in a basket and set out at his services. All the ribbon cards were gone at the end of the services!
Three weeks – just three weeks! – after Mike’s services, a phone call came from a teacher in Wyoming. A student had given her one of those bright yellow messages of hope when the student was at a time of her own need. The teacher called becuase she wanted to get help for teens in her area. (She didn’t know if had been such a short time since this had started.) Other calls began to come in from throughout the U.S. – teens were sending those cards to everyone! Teens also began to call and write, asking for ‘those yellow ribbon cards’, ‘I want to give them to my best friend in case he/she would ever be in trouble and need help’. The ripple effect had begun!
The ribbon became the symbol of the program when the teens began tying them their hair and pinning to their clothes on the day Mike died. Yellow was in memory of his cherished ’68 Yellow Mustang.
The HEART in the middle of the ribbon is the symbol of the survivors. Our hearts go on & our voices will speak for those who cannot.