Cedar City’s Fifth Annual Out of the Darkness Community Walk on Suicide Prevention, Cedar City, Utah, September 17, 2022 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News/Cedar City News
CEDAR CITY — About 300 people participated in Cedar City’s fifth annual “Out of the Darkness” community march to prevent suicide on Saturday.
The event, which raised more than $20,000 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, was held in Cedar City’s Main Street Park.
Iron County has lost at least 12 residents to suicide in the past 12 months, event organizer Bri Sherratt said during her opening address, just before a moment of silence was observed in her memory.
During the program’s “Honorary Beads” ceremony, several people who had agreed to share their stories came forward when they were introduced by Sherratt, who then spoke briefly about how each of them was affected by the suicide.
For example, Cedar City Police Cpl. Eric Heaps, who is also commander of the 222nd Field Artillery Battalion, wore a necklace of silver beads around his neck as he stepped forward.
“Eric wears silver beads to commemorate the many first responders, military personnel and veterans who have died by suicide,” Sherratt said, adding that suicide has become the single leading cause of death among law enforcement personnel and firefighters, with even more dying by suicide than on duty to work.
Additionally, Sherratt noted, “The suicide rate of military service veterans is four times higher than the deaths that have occurred during military operations over the past 20 years.”
“The Utah first responder community and the community surrounding the Utah National Guard have both experienced these trends over the years and have worked hard to offer assistance to these communities to get the help they need,” she added.
Another participant named Natasha wore gold beads in honor of her mother, Marla Stones, who died in 2020 at the age of 45.
“Natasha is leaving today hoping that everyone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts will seek help and speak up,” Sherratt said. “She also wants to help those who are directly affected when they lose someone to suicide.”
Another story shared was that of a woman named Amber, whose blue pearl necklace highlighted her support for the cause. Amber also wore green beads to represent her own struggles with postpartum depression and suicidal thoughts, Sherratt noted.
“Amber goes for suicide awareness and prevention for everyone, especially mothers who feel like she did and sometimes still does,” Sherratt said. “She wants you to know you’re not alone, so please reach out if you’re having trouble.”
For similar reasons, Randi Rowley was another contestant who wore green beads to represent her own personal struggles.
Other attendees wore different colored beads, each representing a different relationship or connection. These included fathers, children, siblings, spouses and partners of those who died by suicide.
As participants began the designated 3-mile hike from Main Street Park to Canyon Park and back, many wore custom t-shirts with supportive slogans such as “You are not alone” and “Be the voice.” Some T-shirts and signs also bore the names of family members who died by suicide. Some of these individuals had their portraits displayed at the event’s ‘memorial table’ under the pavilion.
In addition, several booths were set up in the park with mental health counselors and professionals, as well as service workers who provided a variety of informational resources.
Sherratt said this year’s event, which was Cedar City’s fifth annual Out of the Darkness walk, had a total of 208 officially registered participants. A number of others, including young children, came or attended unregistered.
About 30 volunteers helped organize and staff the event, Sherratt said, adding that several Southwest Tech EMT students also volunteered at first aid stations along the trail.
In addition, Sherratt thanked the numerous sponsors of the event for their generous support.
Honored as the top two fundraisers were Carrie Steiner and Terrie Rogers-Horvathwhose teams raised $3,465 and $2,280 respectively.
“Both had raised over $1,800 themselves on the day of the walk,” noted Sherratt.
A record amount of donations were received at this year’s event, she added.
“Right now, we’ve raised $23,445,” she told Cedar City Saturday afternoon. “That may go up a bit because I believe we still have some funds that haven’t been submitted or fully processed.”
Visit the event for more information or to contribute online donation page.
If you or someone you know is in danger because of suicidal thoughts or actions, call 911 right away. Suicide is an emergency that requires the help of trained medical professionals and should always be taken seriously.
Nationwide suicide hotlines, including the new 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) and 1-800-273-TALK (8255), have counselors available 24 hours a day. The Southwest Behavioral Health Center also offers help to residents of southern Utah; call 800-574-6763 or 435-634-5600.
Other resources include suicide.orgthe American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the American Suicidology Association. All offer comprehensive information and support on the topic of suicide, from prevention and treatment to coping with the loss.
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