To lose your father at the young age of 6 is a pain unimaginable to most. Losing a great man to suicide is even more painful. The aftermath, growing up in a family missing a link, and being discriminated against for how a loved one died is a lifelong struggle facing those who lose a loved one to suicide.
Shelby McCamey Terrill has overcome those challenges and so many more. She now heads Yellow Felt Soul, to inspire those affected by depression and suicide that they may have a life and a purpose by being a living example.
“I attempted a couple times, I currently battle depression and my own mental health,” she said.
Depression and suicide are largely prevalent in rodeo and western communities. These lifestyles are riddled with struggle, but ranchers and those in western industries are taught to just tough things out or “cowboy up.” Many of these people are also self-employed so they may not have coverage for mental health or counseling within their healthcare plans.
Having the hard conversations
The idea to raise awareness for depression and suicide in the rodeo community was born on February 15, 2014 after Shelby attended a Discovery course, as part of her own healing process. One of the main points of Discovery was that people struggling with depression and suicide are in that state of mind because they haven’t found their mission in life.
“I had always wanted to help the rodeo community, it’s where my passion and my motivation are,” Shelby said.
She often speaks of the stigma around wearing yellow at a rodeo. Many cowboys and cowgirls are superstitious, and yellow is a color of bad luck for rodeo athletes. Shelby is not only breaking that stigma, but she is shattering the stigma of talking about depression and suicide. This can easily be witnessed on her social media, where she not only shares her personal struggle, but many others share stories of lost loved ones.
This was a choice that she battled for a while. Overcoming the superstition and mental block in her own mind was a large step in the creation of Yellow Felt Soul, but it seems as though God Himself put that yellow hat on her head and told her to wear it proud.
“The Bible tells us in Matthew 17:20 that if you have faith the size of a mustard seed you can move mountains. When I rodeo in yellow it’s more than just trying to defy the odds or destroy the superstition about bad luck inside the arena. I don’t believe in luck, I believe in blessings. God has already created our paths so no amount of worry, fear, or superstition is going to change that,” Shelby said.
The Yellow Felt
She entered a hat shop one day and asked if they had a yellow felt, to which one employee said he could check the warehouse. After a few weeks she received a phone call, they had found one yellow hat from the 80’s, and it was just her size. An hour and a half drive would be in order to pick up the yellow hat.
Shelby rode in the hat for a year and a half before announcing Yellow Felt Soul publicly. This started many conversations, and not all of them were positive.
“My horse and I are notorious for hitting barrels, and people were telling me that it wouldn’t happen if I’d just take the yellow hat off,” Shelby said.
One rodeo announcer even called her Curious George, he had no idea why someone would rodeo in a yellow hat. After he was informed of Shelby’s reasoning he apologized and became a large supporter of her cause.
“I’m honestly playing catch up right now,” Shelby said, “I’d hoped to be here in seven years and it’s only been three.”
The impact of Yellow Felt Soul
On June 4th, she was honored with the Community Impact of the Year award at the Women of the West Gala in Fort Worth, Texas. June 22nd was declared Yellow Felt Soul night at the Reno Rodeo, where proceeds from the 50/50 raffle will go to Yellow Felt Soul. Shelby will also be a guest speaker in Reno.
She will also be writing a bi-monthly column for The Wrangler Horse and Rodeo News starting this fall. The column will not only focus on depression and suicide education but will also contain rodeo and faith-based inspiration.
Her goal is to offer scholarships for counseling and mental health for those struggling. She also hopes to be able to offer grants to help those families affected by suicide, especially those who may have lost income. Currently, she has partnered with Shelby Sipe Counseling to offer discounts to PRCA and WPRA members who seek out help, Sipe also rodeos and has an understanding of the lifestyle and community.
Much of Shelby’s fundraising so far has come from merchandise, Yellow Felt Soul has hats with Western Legacy Custom Hats, shirts with Kingsville Brand, and a back number style pendant with Ranahan Customs and Awards. Part of the proceeds from each of those lines will be donated to Yellow Felt Soul, but if you feel the need to just make a flat monetary donation, this can be done at YellowFeltSoul.org or through PayPal at email@example.com and Venmo at YellowFeltSoul.
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