© 2024 Wyoming Public Media
800-729-5897 | 307-766-4240
Wyoming Public Media is a service of the University of Wyoming
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Transmission & Streaming Disruptions

A new documentary touring the state looks at suicide solutions

Turining Point: Ending Suicide in Wyoming poster
Brooke Schmill

A documentary focusing on suicide prevention will be screened in several communities throughout Wyoming that aims to shed more attention on it. Brooke Schmill created “Turning Point: Ending Suicide in Wyoming,” which includes interviews with Wyomingites about their experiences with suicide.

Wyoming has the highest per capita suicide rate of any state. Schmill, who was born and raised in Casper, lived in Wyoming until moving to Northern California to live with an aunt after her mother’s death. She later attended the University of Wyoming (UW) and works full-time in the hospitality industry in northern California. This isn’t her first documentary on suicide. She produced “I Only Cry in the Rain,” in 2011. The film is named after the title of a poem that a young woman wrote that was featured in that documentary.

“It's very rough, it's a very first film but I traveled around the state and had these deep conversations with people,” she said. “Then I just sort of felt that I assumed the state would get it [suicide numbers] under control because it was so bad.”

Schmill attended film school after graduating from high school and took a course with the Sundance Institute to learn more about and enhance her skills to make the longer second documentary.

“Ten years later, I was in Wyoming again visiting my family and it was a historically bad year for high suicide rates. And I had a bunch of people from my first film reach out to me to tell me about it, because I think that they just had me in mind as someone who would listen,” Schmill said. “And so I got the idea to make a follow up film.”

The release and screening coincide with September, which is National Suicide Prevention Month. Interviews include those with Lander Mayor Monte Richardson, Teton County Sheriff Matt Carr, and Gillette juvenile probation officer Felice Acosta, among others.

Brooke Schmill interview with Lander mayor Monte Richardson
Brooke Schmill
Brooke Schmill (left) interviews Lander mayor Monte Richardson (center) for "Turning Point: Ending Suicide in Wyoming." Schmill is hosting screenings of the documentary in five communities statewide to coincide with September being National Suicide Prevention Month. Wyoming has the highest per capita rate of suicide of any state in the country.

Building trust with interview subjects sometimes proved challenging given the short time Schmill had with them. She knew discussing such a heavy topic would be that way.

“It's such a deeply personal topic for people,” she said. “But for the most part, the general attitude when I was interviewing people is frustration that things don't seem to be changing. Everyone in Wyoming knows it’s rural. I say the things that make Wyoming so great can also be the things that make it problematic.”

Schmill said a general lack or resources in communities large and awareness of mental health services are two reasons for the high suicide figures in Cowboy State.

“For young kids, it's really hard for them to get inpatient care when they are needing more advanced help than what their parents can offer them or just a counselor. That's very frustrating for a lot of people,” she said. “The sheriff in Jackson explained that sometimes when people need to be detained because they're a danger to themselves, they have to wait in jail because there's no other place to put them, and so there's it's just really sad that people are wanting to help them people are asking for help, but the resources haven't really caught up yet for the need.”

In addition to increased resources and mental health facilities, Schmill said there needs to be a change in how Wyomingites view suicide and the reasons someone may consider or take their life vary from person to person.

“It's a crisis and that there are people, that because the numbers have not changed drastically, the current messaging is obviously not reaching people that it needs to reach,” she said. “There is the number 988, that's free, 24/7 confidential support. And I personally support reaching out to a stranger because they don't have any sort of bias about your life or judgment…but once you do you realize that you're not alone, that there are people who can offer suggestions and help for getting you out of that mind state.”

Screenings of the film will be held in Rock Springs, Casper, Gillette, Lander, and Jackson. A list of dates can be found here.

If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org.

Hugh Cook is Wyoming Public Radio's Northeast Reporter, based in Gillette. A fourth-generation Northeast Wyoming native, Hugh joined Wyoming Public Media in October 2021 after studying and working abroad and in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Mike Enzi.
Related Content