Almost everyone walking at the Walk4Hope has lost a loved one by suicide. As they come together, they share stories, memories and even exchange hugs to commemorate those who have passed and those who have survived.
Caitlin Thomas, a suicide prevention advocate, attended the walk in honor of her sister. “Suicide prevention and awareness is important to me because my little sister attempted suicide a few years ago,” she said. Although her sister Hannah Thomas survived the attempt, others have been unfortunate.
“Looking back now I realize how sad and scary all of that was and how horrible it could’ve been for my family,” Hannah said.
While there are warning signs indicating that someone is thinking of suicide, suicide isn’t limited to a specific type of person. It can happen to anyone.
One attendee, Stephanie Hansen, lost her 18-year-old son Josh Hansen to suicide. “We were completely shocked when this happened and had no idea that he had been struggling for so long,” she said. “He was the class clown everyone loved him and he hid behind his smile.”
Hope4Utah is bringing awareness to communities on a national level as well. They’ve implemented HOPE squads in many schools, training certain students to be the eyes and ears of the school. They’re trained to watch for and comfort at-risk students.
Suicide prevention expert, Greg Hudnall, started the idea of HOPE squads to change the way the community saw suicide prevention. “It’s just having the ability to recognize someone who is struggling. That’s why we train our young people to talk to a friend,” he said.
“They don’t have to be ashamed. They don’t have to be alone,” Caitlin said.
“There’s a huge community of people that want to be with them.”
“Somebody needs you here and you may not think about that in the moment,” said Hannah.
“Let people help you. There is no shame in having these thoughts and it’s okay to not be okay,” Hansen said.