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'You never know': How dad is trying to stop teen suicides after four deaths

After a cluster of local teen suicides, stay-at-home dad Colby Wallace launched the “You Matter” campaign to strengthen mental health.

Mr Wallace, the 42-year-old father from Queen Anne in Seattle, heard about four teen suicides in King County on May 12.

“These were local high school students and no one was really talking about it,” Mr Wallace told Yahoo Lifestyle.

A friend told Mr Wallace about the Don’t Give Up Movement, started in 2017 by Amy Wolff – a mum in Newberg, Oregon who, affected by the suicide rates in her community, started distributing motivational signs.

Seattle father Colby Wallace is pictured with one of the signs he has put up to help stop suicides.
Seattle father Colby Wallace is trying to stop suicide by putting up motivational signs. Source: Colby Wallace

Now, she runs a non-profit that sells signs, wall decals and wristbands with encouraging phrases.

It was smart, Mr Wallace thought, so he called Ms Wolff and spent $105 on 15 signs: ‘You’re Worthy of Love’, ‘Don’t Give Up’, ‘You Matter’ and ‘Your Mistakes Don’t Define You’. He paid US$30 (about AU$43) for 200 branded wristbands.

“We placed signs across the street from my daughter’s school and an older woman told me, ‘Thank you so much because people my age really need to hear this’,” Mr Wallace told Yahoo Lifestyle.

The gentle signs are non-intrusive reminders to keep going.

“I’ve learned that you never know who is struggling,” the dad told Yahoo Lifestyle.

Signs reading 'You Are Enough' and 'Don't Give Up' as part of Seattle man Colby Wallace's 'You Matter' campaign
Mr Wallace's "You Matter" campaign is making people feel better. Source: Colby Wallace

“Some people seem like they have it together but need to hear this.”

When his five- and nine-year-old daughters’ elementary school asked to feature the signs in its newsletters, naming them the “You Matter” campaign, people started helping Mr Wallace with distribution.

“A woman told me she was in tears after dropping off her daughter at school because the sign made her feel heard,” Mr Wallace said.

Mr Wallace and his family placed the signs all around town, including one with “Don’t Give Up” on a steep hill for bicyclists in need of literal motivation.

But someone has been tearing down Mr Wallace’s work, bending the metal stakes and stealing the signs altogether.

“Maybe it’s someone who needs to hear these messages,” Mr Wallace said.

The Seattle father's daughter, Caelyn, is seen here sitting next to another sign, reading: 'Your mistakes do not define you'.
Mr Wallace's daughter Caelyn, 5, sits beside one of her dad's motivational signs. Source: Colby Wallace

Now neighbours are donating money to Ms Wallace for him to fund new orders and he has already spent $400 on new supplies.

The dad will post signs throughout the spring and continue again when school starts.

“I would love for someone to continue this work in other neighbourhoods,” he told Yahoo Lifestyle.

“Really, anyone can do this.”

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636, Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, find help by visiting White Ribbon or calling 1800 RESPECT.

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