Teen makes shirts to promote suicide prevention after losing best friend to suicide

Sep 7, 2021, 6:40 PM | Updated: 8:29 pm

PIOCHE, Nev. — A high school senior in rural Nevada is sharing a message of hope and light during National Suicide Prevention Week after losing her best friend to suicide in 2018.

Suicide is the leading cause of death for Utah teens, ages 11 to 17.

Whether your child is experiencing those feelings of hopelessness or despair, or interacting with peers who are, it’s vital they’re equipped to handle those discussions.

Wylee Mitchell, 17, competes in rodeo and barrel racing.

She’s placed at nationals and ran at the Great American Million Dollar race.

She loves interacting with her horses.

“The bond that I have with each and every one of my horses, being able to really connect with them,” she said.

It’s been a passion of hers since she was a little girl.

“My mom’s made all my rodeo shirts since the time I was seven years old,” she said.

Mitchell lives in Pioche, Nevada, a small town not far from St. George.

Her recent success in rodeo allowed her to invest money into something else she’s become very passionate about — suicide prevention awareness.

She lost her best friend to suicide in 2018.

“During the last year and a half of his life is when me and him got to be super close,” said Mitchell.

They bonded over shared experiences they’d each had in their past.

“He was one of my best friends, and I will always consider him that,” she said.

Her grief was overwhelming.

“I took it really, really hard. I mean, just that loss, that sadness,” she described.

Those feelings even turned into guilt.

“The why — why couldn’t I have done more?” she remembers feeling.

Eventually, Mitchell decided to channel her frustration elsewhere.

“I realized that my anger and my hurt wasn’t doing me anything but bringing me down and making myself miserable and the people around me,” she said. “I thought I had to channel that anger somewhere else, and that’s really how these shirts and that idea got started.”

She bought equipment to print and make t-shirts with one central message: “To help other people see the light, to promote life, and show that there’s so much worth living for.”

She uses the semicolon as the main symbol on her shirts and the phrase “Y Stop Now” to inspire others.

“The semicolon is used when the author could have chosen to end the sentence. But he keeps writing, he kept going with the story,” she explained. “The semicolon symbolizes hope; it shows your story isn’t over yet.”

“Maybe if I can help somebody else, we can get through this. Maybe I can help somebody else see the light,” she thought.

Dr. Kristin Francis with the Huntsman Mental Health Institute said loss for teenagers is particularly devastating.

“Those are big feelings, and they don’t have the tools necessarily to process all of that grief,” she said. “Their whole job is figuring out their identity and they’re full of new feelings, and they don’t have the emotional regulation skills that adults have that comes later in life.”

Francis said teenagers often lack what she calls “distress tolerance,” or “the ability to handle really tough feelings, without hurting yourself or other people.”

She said it’s natural for them to turn to their peers for support.

“They often have to turn to each other, not feeling that their parents or that the adults around them can necessarily understand what they’re going through,” she said. “That’s where they get their information, that’s who they want to be with, that’s who they turn to and that’s normal.”

That’s why she urged young people to follow Mitchell’s lead by staying educated and aware of the signs and symptoms of mental illness, and then to share that accurate information with their friends.

“There’s really good tips and techniques out there about what to do in the moment when you’re overwhelmed by big feelings,” Francis said. “Share that tip with their friends — that’s a really helpful way for them to all get through these hard feelings together.”

Francis said many people feel a sense of confusion and disbelief when someone dies by suicide, “and a lot of guilt, and wondering what they could have done to help someone so that that wasn’t the option they chose.”

But she made it clear that no friend or family member of a loved one who ends their life should blame themselves.

“If you’re the friend of a person who died by suicide, it’s in no way your fault,” she said. “Death by suicide is a very complex event. It’s really hard to understand, even for professionals.”

Francis told parents to communicate with their children.

“Keep your kids talking. Keep talking to your kids,” she said. “Parents are constantly saying, ‘My kids are pushing me away and my kids don’t want to talk,’ and I say, ‘Just keep at it. Be present, show up, bring snacks.’”

She reminded both parents and teenagers, there is hope.

“These are treatable conditions, and people get better and people go on to do amazing things,” Francis encouraged. “We have therapies for this, we have medications for this. This is not something that you’re going to be struggling with for the rest of your life.”

Francis reminded parents that teens are adaptable and resilient.

“They find the goodness and that’s a really neat thing about young people in general,” she said.

Mitchell said she wishes her best friend could have seen beyond the difficult days he was then facing.

“I wish he knew how many people’s hearts that he touched [and] how many people loved him,” she said. “Every time you walked into the room, it was so hard not to smile because he was always saying something funny.”

Now, she’s on a mission to help others find the light.

“Everyone’s here for a reason. Your story is just getting started,” said Mitchell.

Mitchell is donating five dollars for every shirt sold to the Suicide Awareness Foundation to help spread the message.

She has a goal of selling 100 shirts, which can be found here.

Available resources:

  • People in crisis or having thoughts of suicide, and those who know someone in crisis, should call the Utah Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (in partnership with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline). The line is answered 24/7/365 by crisis counselors at Huntsman Mental Health Institute. You can also text TALK to 741741
  • Parents, students, and educators can download the SafeUT app chat or call 833-3SAFEUT to connect with a licensed crisis counselor.
  • First responders, including firefighters, law enforcement, EMS, and healthcare professionals, can chat with a crisis counselor at no cost 24/7/365 by downloading the SafeUT Frontline app and members of the National Guard can access help through the SafeUTNG app.
  • For non-crisis situations, when you need a listening ear as you heal and recover from a personal struggle, call the Utah Warm Line at 1-833 SPEAKUT 8:00 a.m.-11:00 p.m., 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
  • At Huntsman Mental Health Institute, women can access maternal mental health services including birth trauma, pregnancy loss, infertility, and perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.
  •, a campaign by the Utah Suicide Prevention Coalition offers suicide prevention training and has resources for faith-based groups, youth, LGBTQ+, and Employers.

Other Community-based organizations that provide suicide prevention services, support groups, mental health education, counseling services, and support:

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Healthy Mind Matters

Tamara Vaifanua

Salt Lake Co. offers workshop for teens struggling with body image

For the first time, Salt Lake County Youth Services is offering a free workshop for teens who struggle with body image issues.
11 days ago
(KSL TV)...
Matt Rascon

KSL+ One man’s heart-shaped mission to prevent suicide

Mental health challenges continue across the state. This week, the story of one man’s mission to prevent suicide with reminders that people matter.
18 days ago
Ayanna Likens

You can call or text new mental health resource (988)

The nation’s newest mental health resource isn’t just a phone call service – you can text it, too.
1 month ago
The number for the national suicide prevention hotline, 988....
Ayanna Likens

Utah’s connection to a national 3-digit suicide prevention hotline

It will soon be easier than ever to connect with mental health professionals across the country during a crisis as the three-digit phone number, 988, launches this Saturday.
1 month ago
Posters at the Department of Health and Human Services offers advice on preventing and getting over...
Jed Boal

How community postvention tool kit helps communities after a suicide

How our communities respond after a suicide death matters and that's why the Utah Suicide Prevention Coalition created an online tool kit to help.
1 month ago
LGBTQ teens at an Encircle activity....
Ashley Moser, KSL TV

Parents’ support key to mental health among LGBTQ+ youth, experts say

Nearly 20 percent of adults in the U.S. live with a mental health condition. In the LGBTQ+ community, that number is three times higher. Experts say family support is crucial to an adolescents’ mental health.
2 months ago

Sponsored Articles

tips how to quit smoking...

7 Tips How to Quit Smoking | Quitting Smoking Might be One of the Hardest Things You Ever Do but Here’s Where You Can Start

Quitting smoking cigarettes can be incredibly difficult. Here are 7 tips how to quit smoking to help you on your quitting journey.
Photo: Storyblocks...
Blue Stakes of Utah 811

Blue Stakes of Utah 811: 5 Reasons To Call 811 Before You Dig When Working in Your Yard

Call before you dig. Even at home, you could end up with serious injuries or broken utilities just because you didn't call Blue Stakes of Utah 811.
Days of...
Days of '47 Rodeo

TRIVIA: How well do you know your rodeo? Take this quiz before you go to the Days of ’47!

The Utah Days of ’47 Rodeo presented by Zions Bank is a one-of-a-kind Gold Medal Rodeo being held July 20-23, 25 at 7:30 PM. The Days of ’47 Rodeo How well do you know your rodeo trivia? Take the quiz to test your know-all before heading out to the Days of ’47 Rodeo at the […]
cyber security through multi factor authentication setup...
Les Olson IT

How multi factor authentication setup helps companies stay safe

Multi factor authentication (MFA) setup is an important security measure that every company should implement for their workers. It’s also wise to install it for your personal and home accounts.
Lighting Design

Check out these stunning lamps with stained glass shades

Lamps with stained glass shades are statement pieces that are more than simply aesthetic. They also meet a functional requirement: to light up a room.
Address Bar of internet browser shows internet access...

Utah voters 50+ support increased access to Internet

The AARP surveyed Utah voters aged 50 plus about internet access and if they support the expansion of broadband, especially in rural areas currently lacking it.
Teen makes shirts to promote suicide prevention after losing best friend to suicide