TREMONTON – A group of concerned citizens in Tremonton gather on the third Thursday of the month at noon at Bear River Mental Health, located at 440 W. 600 N., to brainstorm ways to help people dealing with mental illness and to prevent suicide.
Northern Box Elder County Suicide Prevention Coalition has 20 members but not everyone can make the meetings. It is all volunteer and only about half attend the meetings. Right now, all the counselors on the coalition are back in school for training so there is not as many coming to the meetings as they usually do.
Doreen Stever, the chairman of the group, said mental illness and lack of resources is a problem in their community.
“Suicide touches all of us. We all know someone that has been affected by it,” she said. “We are trying to change things.”
Right now, if someone calls for help, they are directed to a message that tells them to call a different number. Sometimes it could take as many as five calls to talk to a person.
“We are not talking about a crisis line. This is for someone who wants to get help for somebody struggling with mental illness,” Stever said. “We need to change that. If someone needs help, they need to talk to a person now.”
For Jenny Schulze her involvement in the coalition came two years after her father took his life.
“My father battled mental illness my whole life,” she said. “Two years after he took his life a few of us decided we needed to get together and form a group to combat this issue.”
The group’s goal is to educate, advocate and enlighten people about how common mental illness and suicide is.
“We stay away from counseling,” Shulze said. “We are not doctors or counselors, but we do bring doctors and counselors in for townhall meetings to bring awareness to the problem in our community.”
In 2008 they started holding suicide remembrance walks to focus on the people who have lost someone to the disease. As many as 200 people walk to honor a loved one who took their life.
“When you lose a loved one, sometimes you lose your ability to mourn. It is nice to walk with people going through the same thing,” Schulze said. “It is a disease or illness just like diabetes or a heart condition; people have a chemical imbalance and need to take the right medication to help them.”
The group participates in parades, booths at the fair and anywhere else they can bring attention to the local dilemma. They also send out surveys to collect data.
“We have people come to us and tell us we need more resources,” she said. “They also tell us we need more green space and we need to fix the helplines.”
Coalition members go to city council meetings and advocate things they can do to help and bring new ideas and try to persuade them to do more to help the mentally ill.
“If they are going to build or expand a park, we want them to think about more water features, green space and walking paths,” she said. “Some studies are showing that greenspace can be healthy for everyone.”
Cherie Munns, a recent member of the coalition, said she had a brother that took his life 47 years ago. She said they didn’t know much about mental illness then.
“They treated people pretty poorly then, they thought they were crazy. There was a lot of stigmata behind suicide,” she said. “People had some strange ideas. Someone told us to bury him upside down. They just didn’t understand.”
She said joining the coalition helped better understand mental illness.
“It was a real eye opener,” Munns said. “When a person is depressed, it is good to find someone to talk it out sometimes.”
Teens know how easy it is to take their life. They have the knowledge but not the understanding that goes along with the choice. In Box Elder County there are not a lot of resources for people to get help.
Tiffany Palmer, another member of the coalition, lost her brother and three cousins to suicide and after hearing about the Suicide Walk she participated.
“Since that first walk, I joined the coalition and have found it to be helpful,” she said. “I love what they do and I want to be able to help someone else from going through losing a loved one.”
If there is a way she can help keep or prevent someone else from suffering this way, Palmer is all in.
“The coalition is a great bunch of people trying to make a difference and stop the suicide plague in our society,” she said. “I think as a coalition we are trying to find ways to get information out there and let people know they don’t have to be alone.”
Palmer wants people with issues to know it is okay to ask for help and there are several avenues to help people dealing with mental health issues.
For more information or to get help contact Bear River Mental Health (435) 257-2168.