Walking for awareness

Marisa Nelson

On Sept. 21, NUHOPE and the city of Ogden held their 12th annual Suicide Awareness Walk on 25th Street. The walk not only aimed to spread awareness but helped to bring people in the community together.

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Alex Boyé takes a selfie with Hope Squads from around the state. (Kalie Pead/ The Signpost)

Suicide has become a pressing issue in the past few years. Community members want to let their loved ones know that they are not alone, and there is support for the entire community. This year’s event drew approximately 3,500 participants. Many families, groups of friends, individuals, and school HOPE squads joined in the event. There were places to write memories as well as some uplifting performances by Alex Boyè.

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Alex Boyé stands in the audience on a seat to talk to the attendees of the march. (Kalie Pead/ The Signpost)

“There is a stigma sometimes with mental health and suicide awareness,” Caysie Bowden, a Rocky Mountain Jr. High counselor, said. “I think this event brings the community together for those who are survivors or who have lost loved ones, and it can help spread that awareness.”

Bowden believes walks like this help those who have been impacted or those who struggle with suicidal thoughts. They spread awareness not only to the community but to individuals who may be struggling.

This issue can be specifically targeted by student HOPE squads. HOPE squads help to promote kindness in schools and are a resource for students to interact with their peers while providing help to those who need it. Many of the students involved said they love promoting a kind culture in their school and being able to share experiences to help others through difficult times.

“I love the HOPE squad program because kids know what’s happening with their friends a lot sooner than we do as adults,” NUAMES HOPE squad advisor Becky Austad said. “Having them to reach out, being aware, and knowing what to do to get their friends access to help has been huge.”

Austad said that having peers that are kind and accepting can help students feel safer and know they have a place to turn to for support.

According to the HOPE squad website, prevention in schools needs to start with education. It is important for all staff to be trained in what to look for and how to help students.

“I used to be pretty shy and withdrawn, and I didn’t let myself have a voice and through that, I got insecure about who I was,” NUAMES HOPE squad president Kylee Tidwell said. “Then I joined HOPE squad, and not only was I able to use kindness to help others, but I was empowered to be my own person and have my own voice.”

Tidwell believes that having a community of people who can support those who are in darkness and have had similar experiences is the key to helping bring people out of isolation and to help them find a way to deal with what they are feeling. Tidwell is also the President of the HOPE squad National Council, where she goes to other schools and helps give suicide prevention tools and training to support their schools.