Following 15-year trend of rising suicide deaths, Hildale declares ‘Day of Hope’ to promote prevention

HILDALE — At Wednesday’s City Council meeting, Hildale officials declared Feb. 12 the “Day of Hope” to promote mental health and suicide prevention.

According to a Utah Department of Health 2019 suicide report, an average of 592 Utahns die from suicide and 4,538 Utahns age 10 and older attempt suicide each year. The data also showed that suicide was the leading cause of death for people in the state age 10-17.

Hildale City Mayor Donia Jessop said the impacts of losing a loved one to suicide hits home for Hildale residents, where there has been a steady rise in suicide deaths in the last 15 years.

“In this community, we’re all one big family. Although we have our own family units, we all know each other. We all love each other,” Jessop said. “We all went through the same kind of traumas. We went through the same hardships. We did that together. We have all gone through self-discovery. So when we lose one, we all lose one.”

Previous to the City Council meeting, a Declaration of the Day of Hope event was held at Water Canyon High School, where students gathered to write on black paper with all the reason to live.

Students of Water Canyon High School stand in front of the reasons to live wall, Hildale, Utah, Feb. 12, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Hildale City Mayor Donia Jessop, St. George News

“Some of the things on the sign were ‘Because my teacher said I had to,’” Jessop said. “But then the board started to fill up and fill up and fill up, and then all the boys were climbing on each other’s shoulder to get up higher, and they were writing great things, like names – specific names – of why they’re glad they’re alive.”

Writing on the wall served as a unifier between students, said Lindsay Humphries, a chair of the Creek Valley Prevention Coalition.

“I saw two girls who were embracing each other in a tearful embrace,” Humphries said. “One of the students came up to me before the ceremony started, and she said, ‘I have loved having this wall up here today. It’s helped me feel like I’m unified with the other students, that we’re more like a family, that I’m not alone anymore.”

The Creek Valley Prevention Coalition held their first meeting in December. They are now developing a youth-led coalition that is set to launch in March.

Outside of promoting prevention and awareness, a hope for these organizations is to help break down barriers between the adults and the youth. Taking it a step further, Jessop said they want the kids to realize adults are on their side.

“The adults want a community where the kids are safe and having fun,” she said. “They don’t have to buck the system or rebel to have a good time. Let us help provide a space for you to have a good time. In fact, we’ll bring the food.”

During the event, students agreed to honor three commitments moving forward. The first one was to display the suicide awareness keychain distributed by the city on their backpacks or somewhere else that could be seen. The second was to commit to being someone others could turn to. And the third honored their own commitment to turning to someone and reaching out in order to be proactive and get help for suicidal thoughts or other mental health concerns.

In a study of 10th graders at Water Canyon, “78% of the students asked for mental health or said, ‘I need someone to talk to,’” Jessop said, adding that the fact that students are asking for help gives her hope for the instigation of change and empowering the youth.

“I’m fully convinced that the way we’re going to completely make the change here in Hildale is to get the youth to make that change,” Jessop said.

Resources

If you or someone you know is in danger because of suicidal thoughts or actions, call 911 immediately. Suicide is an emergency that requires help by trained medical professionals and should always be treated seriously.

Nationwide suicide hotlines, 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) and 1-800-273-TALK (8255), have counselors available 24/7. The Southwest Behavioral Health Center also offers help for Southern Utah residents; call 800-574-6763 or 435-634-5600.

Other resources include Suicide.org, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the American Association of Suicidology. All provide comprehensive information and help on the issue of suicide, from prevention to treatment to coping with loss.

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