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Phelps County Safe Communities Coalition held Senior Send-Off presentations for seniors in Loomis, Bertrand, and Holdrege high schools.    

 “We want you to be successful in the next steps of your life.” said Keri Berry, Safe Communities Coalition Coordinator. 

Natalie Pacey, Phelps County Attorney, spoke to seniors about laws and other things they need to understand as they graduate and move to the next stage of their lives including state laws regarding sexual assault, alcohol, marijuana, sexting, and child pornography (including photos on phones). She also stressed the importance of consent in relationships.

“Eighteen is an important age because as far as the law is concerned, when you turn 18 you are an adult and you will be treated like one by the courts,” she said.  

She advised students to make smart decisions and that many crimes have consequences that can follow them their entire life.

She said, “My intention is not to tell you you can’t have any fun in college. You are at an exciting time in your life.  You just need to be aware so you can minimize your risks.”     

Robin Phipps, Safe Communities Coalition member talked to students about current drug trends, threats to their safety, and tips to be safe. She showed a video explaining the threat of fentanyl.  

“My challenge to each of you is to enjoy the next few years while they last, but strive to make wise choices, be informed, and know your limits,” she said. “Be proud of who you are and don‘t be influenced by peer pressure.  Know the right thing to do and the right time to do it.  Avoid making foolish choices that could come back to haunt you.” 

Hunter Ludwig, Region 3 Behavior Services Suicide Prevention Coordinator, addressed the topics of anxiety, depression, mental health, and suicide. He engaged with students and discussed ways to recognize suicidal tendencies in their peers. 

While there is no single cause for suicide, there are risk factors and warning signs which may increase the likelihood of an attempt. Learning them can save lives. Conditions like depression, anxiety, and substance problems, especially when unaddressed, increase the risk for suicide. It’s important to note that most people who actively manage their mental health conditions go on to engage in a great life.

“90% of people who have died by suicide have a mental health disorder or substance abuse disorder at the time of their death. Depression isn’t the most dangerous, but it is the most common mental illness,” he said.

He told students that there is a suicide in Nebraska every 36 hours. In 2022, Nebraska had 246 suicides and our state rank is 37th in the nation.


Something to look out for when concerned that a person may be suicidal is a change in behavior or the presence of entirely new behaviors.  This is a higher concern if the new or changed behavior is related to a painful event, loss, or change. 

“We are looking at ‘out of the ordinary actions’ of people,” he said. 

Most people who take their lives exhibit one or more warning signs, either through what they say or what they do.

Warning signs can include if a person talks about:   

  • Killing themselves
  • Feeling hopeless 
  • Having no reason to live
  • Being a burden to others
  • Feeling trapped 
  • Unbearable pain

Warning signs can also include behavior that may signal risk:

  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Looking for a way to end their lives, such as searching online for methods
  • Withdrawing from activities
  • Isolating from family and friends
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Aggression
  • Fatigue

People who are considering suicide often display one or more the the following moods: depression, anxiety, loss of interest, irritability, shame, agitation/anger, or relief/sudden improvement.

“If there is one thing I hope you remember today, it’s the number 988.  988 is the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline - you can call it or text it,” he said.  “They will walk you through whatever you need to do.”

The Safe Communities Coalition has been conducting the Senior Send-Off presentations in Phelps County since 2012.

Pictured: Hunter Ludwig, Region 3 Behavior Services Suicide Prevention Coordinator, spoke to area high school students at a Senior-Send Off Program.