After more than two years since expanding into the community, Wichita State’s #WeSupportU Suspenders4Hope program has continued opening its arms to local organizations including Ascension Via Christi, area high schools and now Wichita-based Thrive Restaurant Group.
One of the main goals of the Suspenders4Hope awareness campaign is to destigmatize discussions about mental health and suicide and provide training on campus and in the community. The campaign accomplishes this by encouraging people who have experienced a mental health crisis to share their stories of hope and resilience.
Since it began as a campus training in 2018, the #WeSupportU Preventing Suicide training has been completed by nearly 4,000 people and is available for free on the Suspenders4Hope.com website . In July, WSU partnered with the Sedgwick County Health Department, Valley Hope addiction treatment center, and the Phoenix Gym to conduct a community training where all participants received a free Suspenders4Hope t-shirt becoming visible advocates for mental health in our community.
Another training, through a partnership with the Wichita Journalism Collaborative and the County, took place Sept. 13 at the Advance Learning Library located in downtown Wichita.
“The training helps people recognize the warning signs and gives them the tools and confidence they need to connect those in crisis to resources,” said Dr. Jessica Provines, assistant vice president for wellness and chief psychologist at WSU. “The four-part approach includes the campaign, training, a mental wellness curriculum and advocate program. Our preventing suicide program is more than just a training — it's a comprehensive strategic approach to addressing and enhancing culture around mental health and wellness.”
Soon after the program was expanded to the community in 2020, Provines said, they were contacted by Roz Hutchinson, Ascension Via Christi public relations and communications manager, who needed help launching a suicide awareness program at AVC.
“It was the perfect opportunity to work together,” said Roz Hutchinson, who leads community relations for Ascension Via Christi.
WSU and Ascension Via Christi already partner together through the university’s Sport Medicine program and through the College of Health Professions.
“It was such a natural collaboration, plus Dr. Provines is so good at identifying opportunities to better serve our communities,” Hutchinson said.
Since then, the program keeps adding more partners with colleges in Nebraska, Pennsylvania and most recently Thrive Restaurant Group. The group has 100-plus restaurants in 12 states with over 5,400 employees who now have access to the #WeSupportU Suspenders4Hope program.
“Many businesses are looking for a solution to their workplace wellness, and we are proud to partner with one of the largest Applebee’s franchises in the country to help spread the message of hope,” said Provines.
The Suspenders4Hope are quickly becoming a recognizable symbol for community support of mental health and preventing suicide in Wichita and beyond.
“It’s about empowering communities to support each other because we all have role to play,” said Provines.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year over 10.5 million people live with serious suicidal thoughts.
“While every life lost to suicide is one too many, the majority of those find a way to get through it. In fact, less than half a percent die by suicide,” said Provines. “This means we need people to realize that if they have overcome a suicidal crisis, that is a triumph to be celebrated and not a shameful secret to be hidden.”
For more information or to get involved, visit Suspenders4Hope.com.