As part of Suicide Awareness Month, Cache County hosted an event celebrating first responders Wednesday.
Utah pop artist Alex Boyé performed an acoustic set for police, firefighters, paramedics and more at 64 Federal Avenue on Wednesday evening in the runup to a free public concert Thursday.
Wednesday’s event was also meant to be a safe place for first responders to discuss the possible toll on their mental health and share their experiences.
“I wanted to do something for our first responders because they are the ones I’m hearing from and seeing the trauma that they’re experiencing by dealing with this epidemic,” County Executive David Zook said. “They are dealing with very difficult things on a daily basis. I thought if we’re gonna have this event, we should allow them a space to talk and share their experiences and have some enjoyment with Alex Boyé.”
Terryl Warner, county director of victim services, has been in the field since 1996. Her job is to notify families, workplaces, schools and any other relevant groups of a death in order to take the “burden” off people. She considers it a calling.
“For a long time it didn’t affect me, but I noticed a significant change when there was a double homicide-suicide at the university,” she said. “It’s gone down from there. I run almost every day to cope.”
In 2014, three USU students were found dead in a double murder-suicide. Police determined the victims and the shooter knew each other.
“I think this (first responder celebration) event is good,” Warner said. “It’s good to unwind and get to know everyone. We see each other in terrible situations, we see terrible things, so it’s so nice to bring attention to these types of tragedies.”
Attendees were treated to an array of finger foods and invited to listen to Boyé’s acoustic performances.
Boyé’s free, public “Ignite the Light” suicide awareness concert will begin at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Fairgrounds. Four local acts will open for Boyé, and in between acts, suicide prevention information and resources will be shared. There will also be about two dozen exhibitors providing resources as well as food trucks. The concert will be outdoors, with indoor seating options available.
Margaret Gittins is a Cache County employee and the owner of charcuterie small business Smackerel. After recognizing the mental health issues people in her own circles were going through, she used Instagram to reach out to Boyé, who had recently performed a suicide awareness concert on the Wasatch Front. He replied, saying he’d be interested.
“He is the nicest guy. He makes you feel like he’s your best friend,” Gittins said. “He’s so passionate about suicide awareness and wants to spread that awareness. He’s a really personable guy.”
Funds for the concert were raised through donations by well-known companies such as DoTerra and contributions by the community.
“The community made this happen,” Gittins said. “People responded and helped because they wanted this to happen.”
Utah’s suicide rate was 21.2 per 100,000 residents in 2019, according to CDC data. Both Zook and Warner said they’ve observed an uptick in Cache County — more suicides occurred in the January and February of 2021 than in all of 2020.
Resources and information for mental health and suicide prevention can be found on the following websites:
Bear River Health Department mental health and counseling services: brhd.org/services/counseling-services/
Intermountain Healthcare’s list of suicide prevention resources: intermountainhealthcare.org/blogs/topics/live-well/2018/04/suicide-prevention-resources-in-utah/