September is national suicide prevention month, and organizations all over Utah are joining together to raise awareness and improve mental health accessibility. This month, people are joining together to start the conversation to change the statistic.
“12 years ago, my brother took his life. From the time he passed, I had the feeling I needed to be involved. I needed to be connected,” shares Amanda Shields, a Hope4Utah chair representative.
Amanda has been working as a chair for Hope4Utah for a few years, and she shares how she has seen many lives changed through this program.
For people like Amanda, hope has been found through a community raising awareness about mental health.
“There has been so much loss and so much heartache, and people just don’t want to make it public. [Hope4Utah] [is] trying to really encourage and get the word out so that people can feel comfortable to come join us.”
“Hope4Utah is a suicide prevention organization that started in Provo in 1999,” explains Abby Norton, an international liason for Hope4Utah. She says the organization has been working for years to inform communities and increase awareness.
Hope4Utah has implemented a program called “hope squads”, where groups of high school students nominated by their peers work with teachers and mental health care agencies to recognize suicide warning signs.
“We have hope squads all over the state,” says Abby. “We have over 300 hope squads here in Utah, and we have 300 outside of Utah.”
These students are trained to listen to fellow students who are struggling with their mental health and help them work with counselors and parents.
As the organization seeks to increase mental health awareness in Utah, they are hoping to encourage people to join the conversation.
“We have to be aware of how people are thinking, what they are feeling, and we have to be really vigilant,” invites Abby. “Suicide prevention is so important, and everyone needs to be involved.”