As a part of a national effort to raise awareness and funds for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Salt Lake City will host a community walk and gathering on Aug. 27. The AFSP is one of the only avenues for support to help educate in Utah schools about suicide awareness and prevention, said Taryn Aiken, the chair for the AFSP-Utah chapter.
The awareness event is called Out of the Darkness Community Walk and will be held on Aug. 27, 9 a.m., at Sugar House Park, 1300 East and 2100 South.
Public schools in Utah do not include suicide prevention as part of the regular curriculum, which is where the AFSP comes in, Aiken said. The AFSP is also involved in support for survivors, and general education and awareness.
“One of our main goals is to get people in the schools to help educate about suicide. Our fundraising goal is about $40,000 for the year,” she said.
In its third year the walk will attract about 1,000 people; some will come to remember those lost to suicide, others will come to celebrate their own survival, and everyone will support increased awareness.
For Tristan Bills, the participation and fundraising is personal. Almost two years since he came home to find his roommate had tried to take his own life, Bills is a strong advocate for the cause.
“My life changed that day,” Bills said. “I want everyone to come participate, whether or not their lives have been affected by a suicide attempt or not, this is an issue that should be important to everyone.”
Bills is attempting to raise funds for the organization by finding individual sponsors for his walk. His goal is to raise $2,000.
“There’s not a day that goes by that it doesn’t affect me. I have to help,” Bills said.
More than 35,000 Americans take their own lives each year and it is the 11th leading cause of death in the U.S. and for every effectual suicide, there are up to 25 failed attempts.
“Suicide is 100 percent preventable. That’s why we have to help raise awareness about avenues for support and help options,” Aiken said. “The LGBT statistics are so much higher than they should be and so we’re trying to hit that hard.”
Along with the Salt Lake City walk, there will be an Out of the Darkness Community Walk in St. George on Oct. 15. The AFSP-Utah chapter meets monthly to organize events and coordinate volunteer efforts. To find out more information about the walk and how to donate, go to afsputahchapter.com.