By Klarissa Williams
Iron County Today
CEDAR CITY–Southern Utah University and their Care and Support Team (CAST) hosted suicide prevention and awareness week. Throughout the week backpacks were placed on SUU’s business quad, each backpack being a representation of a number of suicide deaths in the year 2015. The events of the week included a workshop and discussion panel on campus, as well as a Suicide Prevention Walk through Cedar City.
“We are here to raise awareness of and to push back against stigma associated with speaking about suicide,” founding member of CAST, Andrea Donovan, stated in her welcome address to the gathering crowd. Members of the community and the college met at Main Street Park to begin the walk which ended on the SUU campus. Each participant was given a t-shirt with the word HOPE written across the front, and “hope” would become the theme of the evening. The shirts gave the group a visible uniformity in their message as they walked up Main Street, holding signs of encouragement.
Once the group arrived at the campus, they made their way into the Sharwan Smith Student Center where Jayci Bash, founder of CAST, welcomed the group and introduced two speakers who would address the group. The first, Heidi Baxley, a prevention specialist from Southwest Behavioral Health Center, shared community resources that were available, including a 24 hour crisis line, the Cedar City crisis intervention team, and a website that lists mental health providers in the Cedar City area. For more information, visit cedarcitymh.com.
“Pain is real, but so is hope. Sometimes that’s all we have. Are we going to let pain supersede the hope?” asked the second speaker, Damon Polk, who is a substance use counselor from the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah. He and his son sang four songs while the group closed their eyes, and he led them in a closure for the event.
This was only the second Suicide Prevention Walk, but Andrea Donovan stated that the goal is for it to become an annual event for many years to come.