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A Cache Valley event aims to prevent suicide by engaging families

A man and a woman carrying a suicide prevention yard sign walk past the public safety dispatch booth outside in a grassy wooded area.
Katie White
Ignite the Light 2023 at Cache County Fairgrounds

September is National Suicide Prevention Month.

Educational resource booths, food trucks and bouncy castles lined the edges of Cache County fairgrounds on Saturday, Sept. 9 for Ignite the Light.

Margaret Gittins began this annual event three years ago. She said they decided to do things differently this year, to create a family-friendly event that is both educational and fun.

“By having this event outdoors, it allows people to maybe let their inhibitions down just a little bit. They can talk with other people. And there's never a good party without food and music,” Gittins said.

Every resource booth had something for kids to interact with.

“And I do think by kids being here, it opens up that door, what is suicide? Why are we talking about it? Why should I want to have this conversation?” Gittins said.

Local resident Alyna Ohling brought her kids to the event. She said talking to her young children about suicide shouldn’t be taboo. She wants her kids to know she’s their biggest advocate.

“That’s my whole philosophy as a parent. I want all hard conversations to be part of our normal conversations,” Ohling said.

A path on the other side of the fairgrounds was lined with white paper bags containing led lights, for the luminary walk. Children and adults decorated the bags with words of encouragement and brightly colored drawings to honor those who have died by suicide and those who may be struggling.

Before the walk began, local therapist Chelsea Petersen led people in a meditation exercise.

“Just feel in your heart, feel in your body, what it feels like to be here in this moment. Feel what it feels like to walk. Make this walk yours,” Peterson said.

Petersen asked people to utilize the many resources out there, if they or someone they know is struggling with their mental health.

“Every single person here — and not here — matters. Mental health challenges are real and you can ask for help,” Petersen said.

Presentations were given by Joe Tui’ana, founder of Project ‘I Love You, Bro’, and TikToker Tia Bee Stokes. The night ended with a concert by the National Parks band.

Katie White has been fascinated by a multitude of subjects all her life. At 13-years-old Katie realized she couldn't grow up to be everything — a doctor-architect-anthropologist-dancer-teacher-etc. — but she could tell stories about everything. Passionate about ethical and informed reporting, Katie is studying both journalism and sociology at Utah State University.