WATERLOO — With a passion to help others and the motivation to succeed, Tehya Tournier is again urging the Cedar Valley to start talking about mental health and suicide prevention.
Last year she launched “#Let’sStartTalking,” a slogan she uses on social media to discuss, support and offer awareness to the community. She hosted the first “Let’s Start Talking” public event in March.
The second event will be from 6 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Cedar Falls Community/Senior Center.
“I felt that these three simple words paint the picture of what every community, family, school, etc., needs to acknowledge. We need to start talking to each other, coming to the realization that no one is perfect, and that these issues occur all over the globe,” said Tournier, a 2018 Cedar Falls High School graduate.
The success of the event last year overwhelmed her.
“But I was so happy to do it, and if I could just help one person after that event, it’s going to make a world of difference — at least in my heart,” she said. “I think last year it definitely made a point to the community about how important this is and that’s all I’ve wanted to do for so long.”
She’s partnered with Troy Belmer, a co-founder of the Alive & Running suicide awareness organization. Belmer and his friends of more than 30 years, Randy and Ryan Nesbit, all originally of Dunkerton, lost a good friend to suicide when they were 15. Each year the group hosts a 5K run/walk to help raise awareness about suicide and suicide prevention.
Tournier and her family have volunteered and donated to Alive & Running for several years. Tournier contacted Belmer and said she wanted to do more. He handed her the reins and told her to make it happen.
“I just wanted to do something. Nothing was being talked about,” Tournier said.
Thursday’s event will feature three guest speakers: Elle Loy, a UNI student; Ashley Hicks, a Hawkeye Community College student; and Belmer. They will share their experiences with suicide and mental health as well as what resources have helped them and what is offered in the Cedar Valley.
Sarah Wagner, also a Cedar Falls High School graduate, is joining Tournier this year to help get the word out.
During the aftermath of a suicide of one of their former classmates last year, Wagner said she wanted to help others learn how to spot symptoms of mental health or possible suicide and how to help someone if they’re in that situation.
New “Let’s Start Talking” apparel will be available at the Thursday event, and all proceeds will go to Alive & Running. For more information, see the “Let’s Start Talking” Facebook page.