In honor of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, we caught up with Shelby McCamey, a pro barrel racer who is making a difference in the rodeo community with her brand Yellow Felt Soul. Her mission is to inspire those affected by depression and suicide that they may have a life and a purpose by being a living example.
What made you decide to share your story with the rodeo community?
Whenever I was 6 years old, my best friend, my hero, my dad, committed suicide. My mom actually lied to me at first, saying it was an accident. Later on, I found out that he had done it on purpose. She told me, “Don’t tell people your dad committed suicide,” and I remember thinking, “Why? My dad just died. What’s so bad about that?”
At first I was so angry, and to this day there are some days where I am, and I remember he wasn’t in his right mind when he did that. Growing up, and still today, I battle depression. I even attempted when I was about 15 or 16. I now realize where my dad was coming from. Not only do I understand how it feels to lose someone to suicide, I also know how it is when you battle those thoughts and those feelings. It breaks my heart whenever I hear of someone dealing with depression or suicidal thoughts, or lost a loved one to suicide.
God gave me a testimony and it’s not to keep quiet, it’s to share it, to help change, and to help others. I always wondered how I could correlate my two passions, rodeo and helping people, and one day God was like, “You’re going to wear a yellow hat.” I am not a superstitious person, but that was the one superstition I believed in. I remember just laughing and going “yeah, okay.” Finally, I walked into a store one day and I asked if they had a yellow felt and they didn’t think I was serious. Sure enough, a few months later they called me and they found one in the warehouse from the 80s, and it was the same size hat that I wear. That was the start to Yellow Felt Soul, and I was wearing that hat for a year before I released Yellow Felt Soul.
How has bringing this to the forefront helped you with your journey?
I thought I had worked through losing my dad and my depression, but it also dug up things I had buried instead of overcoming. I am in counseling right now, and a lot of people are ashamed to say that because they’re embarrassed by it. With all of that, I’ve been able to overcome a lot. It’s held me accountable. I get messages all the time saying ‘thank you.’ To me, I’m just telling my story and I’m trying to let everyone know they’re not alone.
What do you want to change about the stigma surrounding mental health?
I want to normalize suicide, because if it wasn’t so hush-hush then people wouldn’t be so ashamed to reach out and get help. If it was normalized and all the treatments to prevent it, I truly believe our numbers would decrease significantly. Ultimately, I want to help change the world and make this a better place. It is a privilege of mine that I get to help others. I feel like so many people can help others but they choose not to because of what society has taught us to do. I also want to bring back being compassionate. It costs nothing to be kind.
I got depressed out on the road this year and just battling a lot of things, and I really wanted to just go home. I was up in the perf in Spanish Fork, UT, and Greg Simas was announcing about Yellow Felt Soul. I had just taken the bridle off my horse and this lady comes up to me in a frantic. I had lost my hat during that run and she asks, “Are you the one that rides in that yellow hat.” I said, “Yes ma’am,” and she grabbed me and hugged me. She had lost her son about 6 months prior to that and that night I remembered ‘this is what it’s about.’ It’s not about winning rodeos, none of the materialistic things.
How can people get involved to raise awareness?
Truly, if they want to help spread awareness, just be there for somebody. Not just say, “Hey, call me if you need me,” because whenever somebody is in that state of mind, it’s not “I’m going to call you when I need you,” it’s “I need you to call me. I need you to show me that I am wanted. I want you to show me that I’m loved and wanted here on Earth.” Whenever someone is in that state of mind they just think they’re a burden. Be kind, check on your friends.
Supporting Yellow Felt Soul:
Make sure to follow Yellow Felt Soul on Instagram and Facebook. She has a website and merchandise in the works as well. Yellow Felt Soul is also pending as an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation. Shelby is declaring Round 6 as yellow night again at the NFR. As of right now, it’s not PRCA-affiliated but she is going to reach out and is hopeful to be a part of it.
Yellow Felt Soul has lines with Western Legacy Custom Hats, Kingsville Brand, Uncle Buck Rodeo Wear, Best Ever Pads, and Rockstar Reins. Part of the proceeds from all of those go back to Yellow Felt Soul. For any donations, reach out to Shelby on social media or email her at email@example.com.
Shelby Sipe Counseling offers discounts to PRCA and WPRA members. She personally rodeos, so she understands the lifestyle.
Edit: Yellow Felt Soul has since become an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation for depression and suicide awareness.