Skip to main content

The City Journals

Riverton community comes together for Hope Walk

Feb 21, 2019 02:14PM ● By Jet Burnham

Led by the Silverwolf mascot, community members walk a milelong route to show support for suicide prevention. (Linda Tranter/RHS)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

Hundreds of Riverton community members gathered together on Feb. 2 to spread hope for Riverton’s annual Hope Walk for Suicide Prevention.

The Walk — which began at Riverton High School with a moment of silence and a balloon release and ended a mile away at Spirit Corner with hot cocoa and donuts—was held to raise awareness for suicide prevention.

It is a topic on the minds of parents, teachers, teens and community members.

During the 2005–2006 school year, Riverton High School lost six students to suicide.

“When somebody has those thoughts, they have just that moment of insanity,” said Linda Tranter, counselor at RHS. “I don’t believe they really want to die; they just want whatever pain they are going through to stop. If we can catch them when they’re thinking those thoughts and intervene, then a lot of times they’re fine after that — they get the help they need.”

RHS has taken a proactive response to suicide prevention, establishing a Hope (Hold On. Persuade. Empower.) Squad club to educate students how to identify and help their peers who are struggling with suicidal thoughts. Squad membership has been growing for the last eight years, and the numbers of suicide ideation, attempts and completions have gone down at RHS.

“I think our efforts are paying off,” said Tranter, adviser to the club. “We've created an environment here that is outside of the Hope Squad — kids that are not on Hope Squad are still coming in and reporting because they’ve been trained on what to do. A lot of our community is just reacting so beautifully and doing just exactly what we need them to do.”

Riverton City officials and Intermountain Riverton Hospital partnered with Riverton High School to host the Hope Walk. RHS Principal Carolyn Goff said community support is needed for preventing suicide.

“This is not a school issue, it’s a community issue,” she said.

Employees from Intermountain Riverton Hospital and Riverton City were involved in RHS’s Hope Week, leading up to the day of the walk. They helped squad members distribute little gifts and treats to students during lunch time activities to remind them of prevention resources available to them.

Senior Kyle Boden, vice president of Hope Squad, said the most moving part of Hope Week was the pledge wall in the school’s commons area.

“The whole wall is covered,” he said. “I think that’s so cool that you see all the names of every student just on the wall, pledging that they choose life.”

Boden has been affected by teen suicide. At the end of his sophomore year, his good friend took his own life.

“I decided I couldn’t change what happened, but instead I wanted to be able to prevent this happening to anyone else,” said Boden. “So, I joined Hope Squad. I just love being able to help people, reaching out to anyone who may be suffering or having a hard time. I want to be there for them so I can prevent what happened to my good friend.”

Hope Squad members receive regular training on identifying warning signs in peers who are struggling with suicidal thoughts and ways to guide them to get help.

“Being in Hope Squad just gives me a better way to help people,” said Boden. “It's not just helping people with extreme cases of depression, it's just helping everyone fit it and everyone feel like they’re having a good day.”

His involvement in Hope Squad has given him hope that he doesn’t have to lose another friend.

“If I had had the Hope Squad experience I have now, I feel like I could’ve — I can’t say I could’ve prevented it because you never know what’s going on in someone’s mind — but I feel like I could’ve reached out and been a lot more help to him,” said Boden. “I wish I had known what I know now, then, for sure.”

Riverton City officials also provide similar training for their employees and regularly sponsor community training. Healthy Riverton teaches a monthly QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) class, which is a first aid response training for mental health issues. For more information on classes, visit Healthy Riverton on Facebook.

Other cities, such as nearby South Jordan, also offer QPR trainings.

“We encourage anybody who works with youth to attend because these issues are so prevalent,” said Casey Saxton, director of communications for Riverton. “You want to catch something like this before something bad happens.”

Other Hope Week events included an assembly by Collin Kartchner about social media’s effect on mental health as well as the community event Live in Real Life Part 2, when psychologist Matt Swenson spoke with residents about anxiety disorders following a screening of the movie “Angst.” Tranter said the movie and discussion were helpful for those who don’t have a personal experience with anxiety and mental health issues.

Tranter said one of the best resources for suicide prevention has been the Safe UT app. Teens use the app to contact mental health professionals via text, getting support to help a friend or themselves. Administrators, parents, counselors or police are notified promptly if a serious case is identified. Tranter said because of this resource, many suicide attempts have been thwarted and lives have been saved.