September 21, 2022

Shown here is the Billmayer family that started the Tristan Billmayer Suicide Memorial Walk. They are L-R: Adam and Shawna, and their kids, Trent, Ella, and Sarah. This is the 8th year of the Memorial Walk, given in memory of their son/brother, Tristan.

The 8th Annual Tristan Billmayer Memorial Suicide Awareness Walk was held and a huge success this past Saturday in Turner. The day was made to order with bright, clear skies and a temperature that was very conducive to outside activity. The day began with registration at Turner Park with around 100 people signing the registration book. While people mingled prior to the walk they had the opportunity to catch up since the last walk, make donations and enter raffle drawings. The raffle items were HOLO (Hope+Love) brand items that were generously donated by friends of the Billmayer family, Tate and Tami (Jenks) Kreitinger. Luc Swensson, a 17 year old founder and director of the "I Love this Life" foundation has teamed up with MSU State quarterback, Bobcat Tommy Mellot to promote 988, the Suicide Crisis Hotline.

Prior to starting the 5 1/2 mile trek south of Turner around onto the highway and back to the park, Shawna Billmayer spoke to the crowd about the Memorial Walk. It has been 8 years since their family was tragically afflicted by suicide, with the death of their son, Tristan Billlmayer. Tristan was two weeks away from graduating from Turner High School. His death left a void in the entire small community that time would not forget. Their family knew the importance of speaking out and talking about suicide in hopes it would help another family. That's when the idea of the memorial walk came to be. This was the eighth year for the walk. Money generated through donations and T-shirt sales fund a Scholarship each year to a Blaine County Senior or a graduating senior in the 9C area that is pursuing a degree in Mental Health. The recipient for the 2021-2022 school year was graduating Senior, Samantha May, from CJI School. If you would like to make a donation to help fund a scholarship for the 2022-2023 school year, it's not too late. You may do so by writing your check to Tristan Billmayer Memorial and sending it to: Shawna Billmayer, Box 104, Hogeland, MT 59529.

Shirts were designed and made by Cows and Crayons (Shania Maloney). Bobbi Beck was in charge of ordering and distributing them. Proceeds are put into the scholarship fund. Much preparation was done by the entire Billmayer family; Adam, Shawna, Ella, Sarah, and Trent. They were fortunate to have help from friends and family. After the 5 1/2 mile trek south of Turner, a BBQ dinner was prepared and served by Columbia Grain. Cooking was Shandel Fouts and delegated help by her dad, Chet Fouts. Merrilyn Billmayer and Nancy Snider made the salads, while other friends or family helped with dessert. Shawna commented, "It truly is a family affair. We couldn't do it without the help of all our family."

People making the trek throughout the morning were not only walking. There were both adults and kids on bicycles, kids in walkers, runners, and side by side ATV's. The MSU-N Cross Country team came and participated in the walk as well. It was great to see these kids participate in something that they too are passionate about-awareness!

Here are some facts about Suicide. Suicide is real. It does not discriminate. It can impact anyone and it is often unexpected. Numerous factors can put a person at risk, including family history of suicide, substance abuse, access to firearms, a history of trauma, chronic illlness, prolonged stress and isolation. And not everone who is suicidal has a known mental health condition. In fact, 54% of people who died by suicide did not have a mental health diagnosis. That's why it's critical for everyone to be able to recognize the signs that someone may be considering suicide.

Here are 10 signs of suicide that could help you determine if someone is suicidal. (These statistics are taken from the mental health first aid organization.)

1. Threatening to hurt or kill himself or herself.

The MSU-N Cross Country team made the trip to Turner to attend and participate in the Awareness run. Having these kids come was a real treat! It's nice to see groups of kids showing their support and awareness to a worthy cause. Local member of the cross country team include Eddie Harmon of Turner. Eddie was known as "Fast Eddie" in High School and set records at numerous track meets.

2. Looking for ways to kill himself or herself.

3. Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide.

4. Rage, anger, seeking revenge.

5. Feeling trapped, like there's no way out.

6. Increasing alcohol or drug use.

7. Withdrawing from friends, family, or society.

8. Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all the time.

9. Dramatic changes in mood.

10. No reason for living, no sense of purpose in life.

People may show one or many of these signs and some may show signs not listed. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide rates are increasing. It's clear that this is a mental health crisis we need to address. Things we can do to help? Enroll in a Mental Health First Aid course to learn about the early signs of people at risk, and how to get them the help they need. If you or someone you know needs immediate support, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or call 911. Awareness is the first step to getting help.


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