On Saturday Aug. 27, thousands of Utah residents gathered together at Liberty Park to support the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). The Out of the Darkness event not only raises funds that support research and education based programs to prevent suicide, but also provides a community of support.
Mental health and suicide prevention are critical topics on our campus. According to the 2015 National College Health Assessment for the U in the past year, “10.1 percent of students seriously considered suicide” and “59.3 percent of students felt overwhelming anxiety.” As a state, Utah is ranked fifth in the nation for youth suicide rates (ages 10-17).
Taryn Aiken, the event’s organizer, began her work in 2002 after her own experiences with suicide and since her involvement with the AFSP began they brought their first Out of the Darkness Walk event to Utah, starting in Provo. Throughout the year they provide education in schools, parent seminars, training for clinicians and events for survivors. They also do work on the hill with legislators to let them know that voices need to be heard as it relates to mental health.
“The goal is to bring people together,” Aiken explained, so that people know “One, they are not alone, [and] two, what resources are available in our community, what support is available for you if you are struggling.”
“At first I didn’t understand this walk,” explained Kim, a woman who has lost two children to suicide. ”The support and the love that is shown to the people who are left behind is worth every penny that they earn.”
Numerous resources from the community were at the event including the College of Nursing Caring Connections Program. They hold grief support groups throughout the year that focus on different kinds of losses such as loss of a sibling, friend or parent. Shawna Rees from the Caring Connections Program within the College of Nursing spoke of the number of people who find their resources because of this walk, but also of getting to see people who used to be in their support groups.
Caring Connections also holds a Seeds of Remembrance event each year where people who have lost someone can go, talk about their loved one and receive a rose. They host a similar event around the holiday season called Grief and the Holidays.
Not only does the College of Nursing have events to help support the community, but they just completed research on complicated grief that they will be releasing to the public in the coming months.
Out of the Darkness walks bring the community together to not only raise awareness and funds that will help prevent suicide, but also support the people who have been impacted by it.