Ask Abby

Not Something to Joke About

By Abby Cross

*All names have been changed or are not used to protect the privacy of these people.

Suicide. It’s not something to joke about, but everybody does.

As a young child, I was never aware of suicide. I was familiar with death, as I had had older relatives pass away of old age, or some type of illness.  At that age, though, I was unaware of what death really meant.

It wasn’t until about age 10 that I actually encountered suicide. I was outside in our shop working with my dad, or more so he was working and I was sitting watching him. He got a phone call from my grandma, his mom. I had no idea what was going on at the time. As he answered his phone, I saw his face drop. He began to cry and immediately hung up the phone. This was the first time I’d ever seen my dad cry; it wouldn’t be the last time in the next couple of weeks either.

He walked outside quickly and just stood in the middle of our backyard full of rocks and stared at the sky. I was still unaware of what was going on. I was too scared to ask him why he was crying, since I’d never seen him like that before. I think he forgot I was there because he looked startled when he realized I was standing there staring at him.

He tossed me his cell phone and told me to call my grandma back and tell her he was sorry for hanging up and that he was too upset to talk.

I called her back and she told me what had happened. His childhood best friend, Rob, had shot himself in the head and killed himself. This came as a shock to me considering the previous weekend we had went to his house after hunting, and he and my dad sat around talking and laughing for hours. I would have never guessed anything could be wrong with Rob.

My dad and Rob had been best friends their entire lives. They had gone to school together from kindergarten until they graduated college and were still friends long after. Even now, looking back, I can still remember what his smile looked like because it could light up an entire room.

This was only one of the three times suicide had rocked my world.

The second time someone in my life had committed suicide, I was 13 and in 7th grade. We were sitting in second hour, reading class, when there was an announcement over the intercom telling teachers to keep everybody in their second hour class. We were all a little bit confused, but happy because we were in our favorite teacher’s class. She was called out of the room and came back in crying. Now we were really confused. A few minutes later the principal came in and made an announcement that changed the rest of the school year for many of us. He told us that one of our classmates had shot himself in the head the previous night.

It took a very long time before anybody said anything. We were all trying to process what we had just heard. There was a lot of crying. Every single person in the room was crying. For many people, this was the first time they had experienced something like this. Many people didn’t understand how this could be true considering they had just talked to him the previous day, or like me, had sat next to him in class and laughed all hour.

All of his close friends blames the “popular kids” for bullying him, but as far as I could see, he was loved by everyone. His death hurt a lot of people. His funeral was packed. People had to stand outside, or in the refreshment room and watch on screens. He was loved by so many people, but he just couldn’t see it.

The most recent, and most impacting time suicide rocked my life was at the end of my junior year. Thankfully, this time, it was a failed attempt.

My best friend, took 40 sleeping pills one night because her boyfriend wouldn’t let her come hang out with him and his friends. Her boyfriend, at the time, had just gotten back from working out of state and had been with her for four days straight, and had not been allowed to see any of his other friends. He decided that a friend’s night was in order. We’d go bowling then go out to Merino for a small party. He did not want her to go because he really needed some space from her.

He let her come bowling with us, which was fine, but he wouldn’t let her come out to Merino with us, seeing as he needed a night away from her. She relentlessly called and texted him saying that she was coming with him and that he needed to pick her up. He repeatedly told her that he loved her but he needed some time with his friends.

We all drove out to Merino and were having a great time laughing and hanging out. She had quit texting him. He and I had went upstairs to talk when he received a text from her saying, “I’m sorry. I love you. Bye.” We both started freaking out and he called her. She said she had taken some sleeping pills because she just wanted to forget everything and go to bed. Little did we know she had taken 40 of them. We both knew something was very wrong. Him, in his truck, and my boyfriend and I, in his car, took off from Merino and made it to Sterling in a little over 10 minutes.

When we pulled up to her house, he was outside banging on the front door, but no one would answer. I told him to try the garage. He put in the code and it opened. We ran inside to find her laying on the stairs right next to the garage door, pretty much passed out. I ran into her mom’s room to tell her what was going on as he rushed her to the emergency room.

Her mom didn’t believe me when I told her what had happened. She said she was faking it to get attention. I told her it was serious and that he was taking her to the ER. My boyfriend and I then rushed there to meet them.

She ended up in the hospital for two days on suicide watch. Her mom blamed me for “excluding her” and wouldn’t listen to anything I had to say, even though I was one of the people who saved her daughter’s life.

After she came back to school, she was very different. We hardly ever talked, and when we did, it was very awkward. I’m sad to say that I lost my best friend that night, even though she is still actually alive.

Suicide is a topic that is thrown around as a joke or is not taken very seriously until it happens to someone you know. It’s something that just about every person experiences in their lifetime, even though we should not have to. So please, don’t joke about suicide. It can change your life forever.

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Kickin it with Katlyn

By Katlyn LaPorte

Senior year is something I have been waiting for my entire life. It really did come and go so quickly. At the beginning of this year, college and graduation were just things that we talked about; now they’re a reality. It doesn’t seem real that in two weeks I’ll be getting my diploma, throwing my cap in the air, and spending one final day at Sterling High School with the people I’ve grown up with. It is so surreal that after seeing them every day for so many years, I may never see some of them again. It’s so hard to comprehend that only a year ago I had no idea what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go. Now I am set on studying criminal justice at the University of Northern Colorado, in Greeley next fall.

Senior year has brought so many emotions along with it. I’m STRESSED, but I’m also happy. I’m so scared but I’m also SO excited. I don’t know if anyone is ever really ready to leave home and move away from their mom (I know I’m not), but I’m sure ready to give it a shot.

It feels like only months ago I was getting ready for the first day of my freshman year. Four years really goes by faster than you could ever imagine. High school has had its ups and downs for me, like I’m sure it has for all my fellow classmates. You meet people in high school who will change your life forever. I couldn’t be more thankful for the people I got to spend my last year here with.

No one really tells you the truth about senior year. Coming into this school year I had the mindset that this would be my easiest year yet, and boy was I mistaken. No one tells you how difficult it is taking multiple college classes a semester along with your high school classes, applying for colleges and scholarships and choosing what you want to study and where you want to go, all within a timespan of nine months.

My advice for any underclassmen who are approaching their senior year: make sure to really take in the whole high school experience. Attend the sporting events, join the different clubs and teams, go to homecoming and prom and go out with your friends on the weekends. Don’t sit at home and do nothing because I promise you, no one is too cool to do these things and you will regret it if you don’t take advantage of these opportunities. Some of my best memories in high school were made cheering at football and basketball games, dressing up for homecoming week and getting all dressed up for prom.

Another thing no one really tells you, SENIORITIS IS A REAL THING. Don’t let it get the best of you. Your grades still matter all the way up until the end of the year, even if you have been accepted by a college already. Don’t just do the bare minimum to get by, even though I know how hard it is to fight procrastination. At the end of senior year, literally all the motivation you have will leave your body and will likely never come back. It happens to all of us, don’t worry.

Senior year is an incredibly emotional year that comes with so many “lasts.” From your last first day of school, to your last high school football game, to your last prom. These are the big things, but you’ll never understand until you live it how hard it is to say goodbye to your teammates and the sport you love forever once the season comes to an end, or how hard it is cleaning out your locker and driving out of the parking lot one last time. I can’t even imagine how hard it will be, and how many tears I will shed after I walk across the stage and have to say goodbye to my lifelong friends. I can not stress enough to make the absolute most of the time you have left in high school with these people. I still can’t really say I’m ready to graduate and for it to be over, but it’s happening. Hopefully I left my mark on Sterling High School, because it has definitely left its mark on me.

Kayla’s Korner

By Kayla Smithgall

When I entered SHS for my last first day of high school, I was thrilled. I was finally a senior. I knew my way around the school. I was known by most of the staff.  People moved out of my way; I didn’t have to move out of theirs. I only had nine short months until I could be done and move on.

I held that attitude for about the first three months of senior year.

On Nov. 12, my family and I went to the state playoff football game between Sterling and Bayfield. With only two minutes left, and Bayfield leading 41-0, my dad said, “Alright, let’s go.”

“Dad, can we please stay?” I said.

“Come on, Kayla. Seriously? There is no chance of us winning,” he replied.

My dad didn’t understand, and at the time, I didn’t understand why I wanted to stay either. But looking back on that day, I realized that was the first day that it finally hit me.

I was a senior. I was six months away from leaving the school I had gone to since 2013. I would soon leave the staff that knew me so well and would meet an entirely new and unfamiliar staff at my next school. I would once again become the freshman that had to move out of the seniors’ way. I would have to wander the halls of an unfamiliar school and pray I didn’t get lost.

I wanted to stay at that football game so badly because it would be the last high school game I would ever see. Sure, I can go to a football game this fall, but it won’t be the same. If I went, I wouldn’t see the class of 2017 standing in the first few rows and I wouldn’t be watching my classmates play.

Senior year is great until the moment of realization of what comes after graduation hits you.

After I graduate, I will no longer be able to buy cookies from the Tiger Kibble cart. I can’t get dolled up for Homecoming or Prom dances. I can’t participate in spirit week, no matter how lame or strange I think the theme days are. I won’t be the editor of The Bengal Cry. I won’t see my brother’s familiar face in the hall. I will no longer go to classes with people I’ve known since elementary school.

When you’re a senior, you go through a rollercoaster of emotions. One day, you are beyond ready to get out and the next day, you’re scared to leave. You have a panic attack when you think about how you’re going to make it on your own.

But you know what? It’s possible. I won’t end up homeless after I graduate. I’ll go to college and bond with the people there and have similar experiences to the ones I’ve had the last four years at this school. There will be differences, I’m sure, between the schools. They will be both good and bad differences, but I’m ready for them.

Someone asked me one day what I had learned during my time at SHS and at first, I was going to say nothing. But when I looked back, I have truly learned so many lessons, both big and small, over the last four years.

I have changed a lot since my freshmen year, and I’m so thankful for it. I will leave high school, ready for college and the real world. I’m ready for my next adventure to begin.

 

13th: Documenting Slavery to Mass Incarceration in the United States

By: Ethan Glenn Robinson

In recent decades, a foreboding term has permeated much of American debate on social justice, and that is mass incarceration. No document educates a viewer more on this subject than the documentary 13th. Nominated for an Academy award and recipient of numerous other honors, 13th by Ava DuVernay affirms that the essence of slavery has not died in the United States, but rather lives on through the mass incarceration of colored people into a privatized prison-industrial complex.

13th emphasizes that when we look at mass incarceration and events of racial tension such as in Ferguson, we must realize that these things do not just happen randomly in the heat of the moment. Everything in American society is the product of history in motion, a chain of consecutive events leading up to our present day. If we are open-minded to history and the development of our nation’s society, then we should naturally then ask ourselves the question of “why.” Why does the United States make up only 5 percent of the world’s population, but 25 percent of the world’s population in prison? Whether we want to address it or not, this is a real fact of the United States and it should prompt people to be informed as to why.

The progenitor of the documentary’s name is the 13th amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which you probably already know as the amendment that abolished slavery at the end of the Civil War. One might ask, if the Civil War and the 13th amendment ended slavery in this country, then how can it exist today? 13th informs that slavery, on the contrary, had the ability to adapt through one clause of the 13th amendment, except as punishment for a crime. During the late 1800’s, this clause allowed prisons to further exist but also provided a lawful reason for freed slaves to be imprisoned, often into forced labor, after being vehemently demonized by society.

Following the Civil War, there was a former slave population of thousands upon thousands then trying to integrate themselves into a predominately white society. With slavery gone as an essential economic factor in the wake of a complete loss in the war, the South was reeling and viewed blacks with hatred because of this. Very early on in the Reconstruction era, blacks were immediately labelled as savage, criminals, and practically subhuman. This sentiment is clearly evident in the film “Birth of a Nation” (AKA The Clansman), released in 1915 by D.W. Griffith. In this film, a black man is portrayed as the savage highwayman rapist, while the KKK is shown as the heroic force capturing and defeating him.

 

 

Not only was the film groundbreaking in terms of budget and production for its time, but it also fueled a general sentiment of manic fear of the black population. Being black became basically synonymous with being a rapist and a criminal, and this sentiment in 1915 even helped spark a new wave of the KKK movement and lynchings were at their highest at the turn of the 20th century. Blacks were much more discriminately arrested than whites and charged for very minor offenses, often being forced into a prisoner labor force called “convict leasing” when inmates could not pay fines.

 

“… except as punishment for a crime.”

 

As years progressed, colored people were further disenfranchised through Jim Crow laws restricting access to basic rights as citizens, such as the right to vote, as well as through the enactment of segregation. For 100 years after the Civil War, blacks were still held under the law and societal perspective as second-class citizens. Even the leaders of the Civil Rights movement were labelled as criminals. Today we hold Martin Luther King Jr. in high esteem and praise, but during the 60’s, the FBI had King and many other peaceful leaders on a list as one of the most armed and dangerous people in the United States. The anti-black label “criminal” still survived to be applied to Civil Rights leaders and it eerily resembled the message of the film “Birth of a Nation.” The Civil Rights Act of 1964 abolishing segregation and discrimination by race was a bold first step in addressing this problem in the United States, but unfortunately issues persisted as we approached the 70’s.

At that time, crime had risen exponentially, and many politicians and leaders placed the blame on the civil rights movement, even though it was probably a culmination of economic factors and the Vietnam War. The U.S. prison population was now roughly 450,000. President Nixon during his campaign began a new slogan of promoting “law and order” while people began to fear black communities as crime infested ghettos. The word “war on drugs” was also heard for the first time and used as a justifiable reason for raiding colored communities.

One of Nixon’s top advisers, John Ehrlichman, was caught on tape saying, “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

By 1980, the prison population was now 750,000, and the emergence of Ronald Reagan into the presidency in 1981 really accelerated this “war on drugs.” The face of Nancy Reagan started the “Just Say No” campaign, which gave way to D.A.R.E., and President Reagan himself pushed for more anti-drug legislation. One of these was to enact much more strict punishments on crack than cocaine. Crack was a cheaper drug found more commonly in black communities, and as a result of Reagan’s legislation, blacks were getting life sentences for crack while rich whites were comparatively getting slaps-on-the-wrist for cocaine, even though cocaine and crack are basically equal in terms of danger.

Even Newt Gingrich today believes that crack and cocaine should have been treated the same under law, saying, “The war on drugs was a war on communities of color.”

As we reached 1990, the prison population finally hit 1,000,000.

The show “Cops” then received airtime, where it was often colored people being portrayed as the “super predators.” Hillary Clinton early in her career even referred to these colored people are “super predators.” Under law, children under 18 continued to receive life sentences.

George Bush Sr. released a campaign advertisement attacking Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis, referencing criminal Willie Horton and how Dukakis allowed the program Horton was given a weekend pass with to continue.

 

 

This primitive fear of black criminals was appealed to even though there is much more history of interracial rape with white on black than there is black on white. Again, it evokes memory of “Birth of a Nation.”

When Bill Clinton was elected, he took a more centrist view on crime and the war on drugs, however he still enacted strict crime laws. Out of this came the three strikes law in LA, and the system for mandatory minimums for sentences. Sentencing was much more strict, and parole heavily restricted, and to add to this unfairness to colored people, even today 95 percent of all elected prosecutors in the U.S. are white.

In 1994, Clinton passed the “Federal Crime Bill,” which he called a crime bill for the 21st century. This bill called for increased funding for state prisons and police departments, providing militarized equipment to both local police forces and SWAT teams alike. This is where a “militarization” of the police began.

By 2000, the prison population doubled to 2,000,000 in just a decade. With these numerous pieces of evidence in mind, I cannot help but beg the question of why this prison population keeps increasing? Wasn’t increased funding and support for the justice department supposed to decrease crime, not cause it?

Bill Clinton now admits that he thinks the 1994 crime bill was a mistake and that it only aggravated colored communities even more. In the 2016 democratic candidate debate, Hillary Clinton was questioned about the bill as well.

13th professes that you cannot tell black history in the United States without telling about its struggles with the justice system. The Black Panthers was used as a scapegoat to vilify the civil rights movement when they were in fact very small and had little to no chance of actually harming the greatest military force in the world. Peaceful protest leaders such as Asatta Shakur and Angela Davis were being marked by the FBI as armed and dangerous and even arrested and threatened with the death penalty. Davis remembers bombs dropping around her home in Birmingham, the house shaking, and her father having guns at his disposals at any moment in case they were attacked.

Today, Black Lives Matter is the one being demonized. In 2014, the prison population hit 2.3 million.

Neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman kills Trayvon Martin. Martin was unarmed, and you can hear him scream help on the tape shortly after Zimmerman was told to stop pursuing him. Zimmerman did not stop. He was found not guilty based on the Stand Your Ground law in Florida. This police brutality event sparked the movement we see today.

ALEC is a private corporation that first came up with the Stand Your Ground law. It’s a lobbying conglomerate that has both politicians and corporations as members. Under this umbrella, corporations such as Exxon-mobil and Verizon under ALEC get to lobby their interests to congress (mostly Republicans). Templates are provided for numerous kinds of bills, where politicians can simply insert their state. You can literally go onto their website and search for “model policies” that you want.

 

https://www.alec.org/model-policy/

Walmart was a member of ALEC at the time that Stand Your Ground was passed. Walmart is the biggest chain retailer of long guns and ammunition in the U.S., which implies that they directly benefitted from the Stand Your Ground law. Shortly after the Trayvon Martin murder, Walmart gained media attention for this and left the ALEC umbrella, but still sends funds to it today.

The problems with interpreting ALEC laws is that the jury was not informed during Zimmerman’s trial that Martin also had the right to stand his ground, since he was being assailed with a handgun. ALEC also proposed the Three Strikes and Mandatory Minimums laws.

Many corporations followed and left ALEC, but many remain such as the CCA. The CCA was the first prison private company in the United States. It is sadly a basic fact that private prison companies maintain profit by keeping prisons full.

A stop and frisk for immigrants policy was passed called SB 1070. This was proposed by ALEC and directly benefitted the CCA by increasing the amount of prisoners CCA prisons held. Now there’s a direct shift of immigration policy merging with the justice system. Just look at Donald Trump, “…and some I assume are good people.”

ALEC further gets involved by trying to privatize probation, releasing wrist and ankle bracelets to monitor activity. Meanwhile, GPS companies make money off of the GPS monitor.

There are also vendors in private prisons that charge too much money for phone calls. Securus Technologies, for instance, makes 114 million annually. A minimum wage job would have to work an hour and a half to afford a 10 minute phone call.

UNICOR makes money off of prison labor. We may think that poor free labor happens abroad in South America or China, but it happens here at home just as much. Inmates make and ship numerous things in these programs, such as microsoft products, patriot missile parts, JC Penney clothing, and Idaho potatoes.

Another issue is that colored people are now too poor to pay bail. Those accused would rather plead guilty to a crime and get a lighter sentence, because if they choose to go to trial then they’ll have to pay for even more defense. Courts save money by expediting the process and getting quick pleas out of the accused.

 


Being convicted as a felon is a scarlet letter that follows you the rest of your life. It can affect job applications, food stamps, housing, insurance, and even student loans. 30 percent of Alabama black men have lost the right to vote because of this. Jim Crow laws have returned but in a new form, depriving rights in the justice system and when left as a citizen.

I want to make clear that this is a problem with both the left and right. Both have contributed to the problem and addressed it. But how can we trust the government with solving this issue if they cannot take the historical context in mind?

 


The likelihood of a white man going to jail during their lifetime is 1 in 17. For blacks, it is 1 in 3. Black men make up just 6.5 percent of the U.S. population but 40.2 percent of the entire prison population. There are now more black people in our modern jails than there were slaves in the 1850’s.

“…except as punishment for a crime.”

From slavery, to convict leasing, to Jim Crow laws and segregation, and now to mass incarceration of colored citizens.
I do think these aspects of the American justice system evoke a sense of negativity in the world, because other nations are watching us. Vladimir Putin uses these facts to portray us negatively in his propaganda ministry.

The fact of the matter is that all lives matter, and if our justice department is treating one group of colored people unequally then it must be addressed. We are only strong as our weakest link, which is why the Framers of our Constitution made the document intentionally vague to change for the times but also provided inherent rights to ALL citizens.

To solve this, we need to come to terms with the historical precedence there is for discrimination and mistreatment of blacks in our country for hundreds of years. Then, we need to stop privatizing prisons and the justice system, and concentrate on rehabilitation not profit. We must be fair and just above all. Then once an inmate is released, we need to make sure they are provided with just as equal rights in every way as every other free citizen. They paid their debt to society and now they must be a citizen with full rights again. And finally, we need to further eradicate this second class, or ghetto stigma, that still lingers towards black citizens. We need to alleviate the fact that a white father gets to have a talk about the birds and the bees with his son, while a black father has to inform his son about what specifically to do if he’s ever stopped by a police officer.

Spring Musical “Annie Get Your Gun”

By: Amela Nevaljalovic

Spring musical is organized every year at Sterling High School. It is usually produced by a choir/theater teacher and every year auditions are held for student who are interested to be part of it.

This year’s musical was chosen to be “Annie Get Your Gun” and it was important musical because this year was the first musical without Mr. Johnson being in charge. Annette Lambrecht, a new theater/choir teacher was in charge of the entire production of the musical.

Main role was given to junior, Kori Penfold. “When I found about the lead I was sure surprised because I thought that another girl was going to get it. In total, there were 5 girls auditioning for the role of Annie Oakley.”  This wasn’t Kori’s first lead because she had it in last year’s musical and in couple of summer musicals before that.

“The best part of the entire for me was the fact that it came together so well. The others were never prepared to this extent” said Penfold, “ the biggest  obstacle was memorizing all the music because basically I sang the whole thing.”

The musical involved dancing, singing and acting and for a lot of students this was not a big issue. “Coordinating all three was not too hard because I have been doing it since I was little”, said Penfold.

The rehearsals for the Musical “Annie Get Your Gun” began in the second week of January and then they had the show in the first week of April. The Musical was presented to the audience for three nights in a row.

 

“Miss Lambrecht did very well, she was super organized and prepared” said Penfold.

A lot of freshmen students got an opportunity to participate in the Musical. One of them was Darcy Trump. “ I didn’t try out for a specific role, they just assigned me a minor role but it still incolved singing and dancing” said Trump “this is not the first time for me being in a high school production of a Musical, even though I am a freshmen. I did a lot of it in middle school too.” Darcy was in a Musical with her twin sister Camryn. “It was very fun working on a Musical with my sister, especially because we both had a similar act.” “Miss Lambrecht did a really good job and we had a lot of amazing moments on the set”, said Trump.

Some actors had a bit of a more different role. For instance couple of female students had to play a role of a male. One of those were juniors Mary Ritter and Julia Ssessanga. “For me, it was a last minute thing and they told me that there were not enough people so I just did it” said  Ritter “the hardest thing when playing a man was actually having to pretend to keep up a deep voice and hiding the chest.” The play took about a month of preparation and Mary said “ Miss Lambrecht did good for her first high school production of a musical and overall the outcome of the people was great!”

The show ended its three-night run on Saturday, April 8th.

 

Alt-Country Band Old 97’s Newest Album In Review

By: Ethan Robinson

The Old 97’s newest album, Graveyard Whistling, is a bold continuation of their hollering chorus, 24 years in the making.

Defined as alternative country, the Old 97’s are native to Dallas, Texas, and began their band career in 1993. Exposing them to a more nationwide audience, their music has been featured in several films, notably the song “Timebomb” in 1998’s Clay Pigeons.

Although their popularity has deep roots in the Texan music scene, their songs are drifters themselves, referencing cities like New York to Chicago, where lead songwriter and guitarist Rhett Miller has made a living as both a musician and writer. Driven by an energy akin to rock-and-roll and punk rock, the Old 97’s at their core exemplify the foot-stomping narrative and character of classic American country artists, such as Hank Williams and Johnny Cash (whose song “Wreck of the Old 97” inspired their name). With spirited live performances, these qualities have built them a strong connection to their fanbase and have earned them status as one of the quintessential bands of the alternative country genre.

Graveyard Whistling, released this past Feb. 24, is the Old 97’s’ eleventh studio album and was announced in late 2016 with the single “Good With God.” The single features singer Brandi Carlile for one haunting verse, which Miller describes as representing “the voice of God.” For this almost existential anthem, Miller commented on his collaboration with Carlile, “Hollywood for years has lived off of male writers for female parts and most of the time they don’t ring true. Who has a voice that could do justice for being God?”

For Miller, that person was Brandi Carlile, who added immensely to the song’s reflective theme.

“Here I am writing from the perspective of a guy looking back on his life, trying to absolve himself of any culpability and failing [at it],” says Miller.

“There’s a lot of darkness hidden in this record,” Miller explains. “One of the big Old 97’s tricks is when we write about something kind of dark and depressing, it works best when it’s a fun sounding song. So it’s not until the third or fourth listen that you realize the narrator of this song is a complete disaster.”

The main catalyst for the album’s creation was a trip to Nashville where Miller spent time playing with songwriter John McElroy.

Miller said, “It reminded me that I don’t have to be too serious or too sincere or heartfelt. I just have to have fun and be honest. I felt like I kind of had free reign to go ahead and write these songs that were bawdier and more adult-themed.”

Miller’s skill for clever songwriting is evident more than ever, and the unrelenting energy of songs “Turns Out I’m Trouble,” “Drinkin’ Song,” and “Irish Whiskey Pretty Girls” embody this idea of an experienced band without a care.

“Jesus Loves You” is a sardonic tune coming from a cynical man pursuing a faithful woman. For this song, Miller has emphasized his role of being a storyteller and not necessarily bearing the views of whatever characters speak. Tied together with the melancholic track “All Who Wander”, Graveyard Whistling is established as a worthy piece of songwriting art.

The Old 97’s truly have made this a “return to roots” album, since they made a point of returning to the West Texas studio, Sonic Ranch, where they recorded their iconic LP Too Far To Care.  The studio is far out of civilization, in an old hacienda on the border-town of Tornillo, surrounded by a giant pecan orchard. This vast expanse and distinctly Western atmosphere has undoubtedly influenced Graveyard Whistling’s desolate twang.

For being so long-standing, Miller is somewhat surprised himself as he describes their progression as a band, We didn’t think we’d last until the year 1997. We thought the name would get a little weird when it became 1997, but we decided none of our bands had ever lasted that long, so let’s not even worry about it. But as it all started to unfold, we realized we could maybe make a living doing this, and we were all really conscious of wanting to be a career band. It was way more important to us to maintain a really high level of quality, at the expense, perhaps, of having hit singles or fitting in with the trends of the time, and I’m glad we did that.”

On March 18, the Old 97’s kicked off the Western leg of their tour in Greeley, Colorado, at the Moxi Theater. As always, they gave all that they had. Miller muses and wails, lead guitarist Ken Bethea leans into the crowd, and bassist Murry Hammond grins and speaks about hometowns, ex-lovers, and grain elevators.

As the band wails, “All who wander are not lost… Remember back when you got lost with me,” the audience is ecstatic, because they know that they’ll be getting lost in the Old 97’s for years to come.

Dishing It with Danessa

By Danessa Allen

As many people know, suicide is a growing problem in today’s youth. It’s not only a problem in Colorado, but all over the country. Even though many people see the problem, and as a teen that’s been to a treatment center not once, but twice, I understand the depth of the issue. In the United States, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death, and roughly 45,000 people die from suicide every year. On average, 121 people commit suicide every day. Surprisingly, in Colorado, between the years of 2008-2012, the age group of 45-54 had the highest number of suicides with 1,044 total. The age group 15-24 is the 5th highest suicide rate in Colorado. Colorado is the 7th highest ranked in the nation for suicides, but amongst the United States, suicide is the second leading cause of death of people between the ages of 10-24, and the numbers keep rising.

As the numbers of suicides in the United States continue to flourish among young people, many questions of why this is happening are coming up now more than ever. Why are this many people committing suicide at such a young age? Why are these kids so upset? Why don’t they just get help? All of these questions need to be answered, but the answers are far more complex that people believe them to be. The answer to the first question is almost unanswerable. Every person has a different reason or reasons for completing suicide, and I do not believe that adults in today’s society understand how much pressure that youth in the United States are actually under. It’s harder than most adults understand. Balancing school, work, a social life, alone time, sleep, and every other thing that teenagers deal with on a daily basis can sometimes be too much to handle.

To get more answers, I asked psychiatrist Jamie Soucie for her standpoint on this growing issue. The increasing suicide rates must be caused by something, considering after social media began taking over the nation, suicide rates have skyrocketed.

Soucie has some ideas as to why she thinks that this problem continues to grow, “I believe that suicide has become prevalent among young students because of a diminished capacity and/or lack of skills to respond to societal, academic, familial, and social pressures. Young people are consistently faced with meeting both real and perceived expectations that they believe must be achieved. This type of dynamic is not easily navigated without first developing the skills the manage such factors.”

She said, “Additionally, adolescents are experiencing one of the most challenging developmental periods of their lives, while establishing a sense of individuation and autonomy of decision-making. The combination of environmental, as well as biological factors create complexities that many of us aren’t prepared to address without some guidance or support.”

Soucie believes that suicide has in fact changed over the few years as a mental health professional.  She stated, “It seems that information about teen suicide is more readily available in recent years and it is less ‘taboo’ to discuss – however, there remains a very negative stigma attached to the topic of mental illness. The truth is, unless we educate our youth about mental illness, the signs of disorders such as depression or bipolar, it is less likely they’ll be able to notice symptoms of and ask for support.”

Soucie then began her opinion on the changes over the years. “Suicide, for me, represents someone’s complete lack of hope and a desire for their pain to end. Those considering suicide are not able to see any other options – that’s why it is so important for youth to know how to access supports,” she says.

Adolescent depression is believed to be a large contributor to the number of growing suicide rates, and Soucie has to agree.

“Absolutely, this is a contributor – the onset of mood disorders is not uncommon in adolescence, therefore, we will see corresponding suicide rates, particularly for those who are unprepared to manage their illness. Everyone can expect that they will have times in life when they struggle; however, the severity of these symptoms, as well as the duration of symptoms is a great importance,” she says. “The reality of depression is not something we can just ‘deal’ with –  it is a condition that often requires treatment. We wouldn’t ignore a broken leg, we would make an effort to have it treated by a medical professional. Mental illness is no different – it’s just less visible.”

It seems that in today’s day and age adolescents have more and more trouble asking for help. Soucie believes there is a reason for this.

“Adolescence often lead to very busy lives and focusing on mental health is not generally a priority that we teach our youth. Students who notice they’re struggling to find enough energy to function optimally throughout the day are not likely to identify this as a symptom of depression,” she says.

“An adolescent who finds it difficult to focus or concentrate in class may not question whether or not this is related to a mood disorder. If our youth are not prepared to notice these issues and their families are not aware of the symptoms associated with depression or bipolar disorder, we can only expect our youth to try adapting to the circumstances,” she adds. There is strong standpoint of educating adolescents about mental illness and it needs to be addressed.

“Yes, I believe education about mental illness is of great importance – not only for our youth, but for our families and the communities in which we live. It is my belief that, if we were more aware of these issues, perhaps we would all be more cautious of everyone’s feelings. We can no longer minimize adolescent struggles by saying that they no longer ‘just emotional’, conversely, we can no longer minimize the struggles that any individual within our home, workplace, classroom, or neighborhood are experiencing. It is each individual’s responsibility to notice when others struggle and to support them in asking for help,” Soucie says.

There is clearly quite a bit of a controversy when it comes to the topic of suicide, and it definitely isn’t a topic people feel comfortable talking about, but it’s a problem that needs to be addressed. As a teenager that has personally been to a treatment center for mental health, I can honestly say that more adolescents need to be education about this growing issue. When I went to treatment, I was at an all time low, I had nowhere to turn to, I felt completely alone, and I can honestly say being shipped away to someplace you know nothing about with total strangers is one of the scariest things I’ve been faced with. Keep in mind that I went to treatment twice, two different centers, with a lot of different people. There were people that had tried to end their life, same as I had, there were people who were paranoid schizophrenics, there were people with anxiety, people with eating disorders, to put it simply, there were a lot of different people in the same place for a lot of different reasons.

Nobody’s story was the same as anyone else’s, there were kids that were abused, that had fallen into drug and alcohol use, kids that have been in treatment 10+ times, kids that didn’t go home for their birthdays or missed holidays because they were in treatment for months at a time. Everyone in the treatment center had a reason to be there, but at the time, those people didn’t value the precious gift of life that we are given each day. In my experience with suicide, it is one of the scariest things imaginable, you get to a point where you cannot deal with life anymore, you’re not thinking of the people you love and care for in that moment, you’re only thinking about all the emotional pain you’re enduring whether you brought it upon yourself or not. Being in a treatment center is terrifying, you’re in a unfamiliar place, you have to sleep in a room with a stranger who has a mental disorder, and you don’t know what you’re doing. As someone that’s been to treatment, I can understand the severity of the problem, and how far it’s actually gone. Talking to the people in treatment has really made me see how hard that teenagers have it in today’s day and age. Many of the adolescents I met had many different reasons for being there, but mostly it was the pressures that they put on themselves. Many of the kids there hadn’t had their families visit them in days, sometimes even weeks. Treatment takes a large toll on these young people, and I believe that the problem is only getting worse. In treatment, you are not allowed to be ‘friends’ with the other kids you meet in the center, so after treatment, you’re ultimately on your own. It is extremely hard after treatment because you made these bonds with all these different people, and then you never talk to them again.

Treatment all together were some of the worst days of my life. I was at the lowest points I had ever been in during my life, but it also taught me the most. Treatment taught me to cope with my problems in a healthy way, and really encouraged me to get better. Adolescents never really think about mental illness, because they aren’t educated enough about the topic to realize the severity of it. Suicide awareness and prevention is something that needs to be talked about, and people of all ages need to be educated about the topic so they know symptoms of depression and other mental illnesses that can lead to attempted and completed suicide. This topic is now talked about more than ever, and it needs to keep being talked about, to raise awareness and to help find some ways it can be prevented.