Mental Health Mardi Gras to celebrate life, prevent suicide
The Durango Herald - 5/3/2018
The community will remember Escalante Middle School student Cody Ledford at a multifaceted event Wednesday, the one-year anniversary of his death by suicide.
The gathering will feature a vigil for Ledford, activities for teens to celebrate life and workshops addressing mental and physical health, coping skills and other topics.
The CODY Project, or Communities Overcoming Depressed Youth, and La Plata County 4-H are holding the Mental Health Mardi Gras to raise awareness around mental health and depression.
Tyllor Ledford, as an intern with the Colorado State University Extension Office last summer, founded the project in honor of her brother. Since then, the group has held suicide prevention trainings for 4-H volunteers, worked with San Juan Basin Public Health on a suicide prevention coalition and sponsored an event to bring a suicide survivor to Durango to speak, among other efforts, said Greg Felsen, La Plata County 4-H youth development agent.
"This project is unique in the sense that it really establishes leadership and life skills in our youth to make a difference in their community in a really powerful way," he said.
The CODY project was started after two members of the 4-H community, Ledford and Thomas "T.C." Rockwell, a Miller Middle School student, died by suicide.
Shaylee Owen, 14, got involved with The CODY Project because she was friends with Ledford and Rockwell through 4-H, and she has experienced anxiety herself.
The Bayfield High School student sees the project as a way for residents to discover available mental health resources and prevention efforts in the community.
"We are trying to be that glue that holds it all together," she said.
Tyllor Ledford started the project by developing relationships with community organizations that focus on suicide prevention, intervention and bereavement, Felsen said.
"Getting involved in a project like this really unifies our community to try and find solutions," he said.
The Mental Health Mardi Gras will feature human whack-a-mole, an 18-foot slide, human foosball, a skateboarding ramp and other games. There will also be opportunities to learn about mental health resources.
Teens and adults who participate in workshops hosted by San Juan Basin Public Health, La Plata Youth Services and other groups can win prizes, such as zip-line vouchers and a Mild to Wild rafting trip on the Animas River.
The CODY project meets at 6:30 p.m. every third Wednesday of the month at the La Plata County Fairgrounds Extension Building.