Students, faculty and staff from Weber State University joined with the community and Northern Utah’s Suicide Prevention Coalition (NUHOPE) for the 9th annual NUHOPE Suicide Awareness Walk on Sept. 24 in downtown Ogden.
According to NUHOPE Chairperson Kristy Jones, “This walk allows our community to honor the loved ones they’ve lost, to celebrate the survivors and to come together. It also brings awareness to suicide prevention.”
Jones said that the Northern Utah Hope task force (NUHOPE) actively and aggressively works to help reduce suicides in northern Utah. He also said NUHOPE is an active coalition of mental health and social service providers, educators, survivors, law enforcement, veteran’s advocates and concerned citizens working together to increase suicide awareness and prevention in Weber County.
According to the Utah Department of Health, suicide is currently the leading cause of death among ages 10 through 17 in the state.
Jones says that NUHOPE focuses on suicide prevention within this age group and offers suicide prevention training throughout northern Utah.
This year, more than 1,000 walkers participated in the 1-mile trek, which began at 10 a.m. with a flag ceremony and an opening speaker on the corner of Historic 25th Street and Lincoln Avenue and ended with a symbolic release of doves.
A WSU press release reported that, “This year’s speaker, Sgt. Josh Hansen, was a two-tour Iraq war veteran who served as an IED (improvised explosive device) hunter. In 2007 Hansen was wounded in action and evacuated from Iraq to recover. His battalion lost six men in combat, and they lost another four members to suicide after they returned home.”
Since his return to Utah, Hansen and his wife, Melissa, have devoted their lives to helping veterans with service-connected physical, mental and emotional injuries. Their non-profit organization, Continue Mission, is also dedicated to raising mental health awareness and taking an active role in suicide prevention.
The chairperson for the walk, Nathan Alexander, is a program coordinator for the Northern Utah Area Health Education Center (AHEC) in the Dumke College of Health Professions at Weber State University.
“Suicide is a very personal and important cause for me,” Alexander said. “I was diagnosed with depression as a teenager and have fought many mental illness battles. There was a time that I seriously contemplated taking my own life and stopped just short of making a suicide attempt. I have wonderful friends and family who helped me through those dark times and helped me realize just how much better life can be when you’re healthy and happy.”
Alexander said, “We are excited to have our Hope Squads lead the walk this year. They’re a great example of suicide awareness and prevention efforts in the community, and their participation highlights the importance of addressing suicide prevention in our schools and throughout the community.”
WSU Student Body President Greg Woodfield wanted to thank all the WSU students, and everyone in the community, who participated in this walk. Woodfield reported that the 2016 Utah Student Association Board, made up of the student body presidents of 10 Utah universities and colleges, has made mental health its top priority for this year. Woodfield said that with three recent suicides among the Weber State family, suicide awareness and prevention should be a very high priority for everyone at WSU.
“Over the last two years, we’ve lost people on the Weber State campus who I knew — people I associated with, spoke with and called a friend,” Woodfield said. “Oftentimes, I wonder what I could have or should have done. My goal is to help more people in need of mental health counseling by using the resources at Weber State and other universities.”
Jones emphasized that, “Whether you’re remembering or supporting a loved one, recovering from hard times yourself or are a supporter of the cause, NUHOPE appreciates everyone who participated in the 9th annual Suicide Awareness Walk.”
Visit weber.edu/wsutoday for more news about Weber State University.
For more information or to register, visit nuhopeutah.org.