PLEASANT GROVE – Taryn Aiken speaks from hard-earned experience when she stands up for suicide awareness and prevention. 

The board chairwoman for the Utah Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Aiken stumbled across the organization while searching for answers online.

“I found the organization after losing my father to suicide over 12 years ago,” Aiken said.

Terry Aiken was a prominent businessman in Pleasant Grove and was 54 years old when he took his life.

“When I got online searching for resources, I came across AFSP and as the youngest child came to understand what caused him to take his life and understand the stigma that surrounds mental illness still to this day.”

More than 500 Utahns committed suicide in 2014 and has become the number one killer of children, ages 10 to 17, in the state.

“So I started the walk in Utah about eight years ago,” Aiken said. “We have lost several of our citizens here to local suicide so we partnered with the local Wal-Mart and the high school to organize this second campus walk.”

Partnering with Hope4Utah and PG Hope, the AFSP is sponsoring a Utah County Campus Walk called the Out of Darkness Walk on May 30 at the Pleasant Grove High School.

Registration for the walk, which is free, can be done online at afsp.donordrive.com until noon on May 29. Registration is also being taken at 9 a.m. at the high school, 100 S. 700 East. There is no cost but donations to support awareness and suicide prevention programs are welcome. 

The goal for the walk is to have those who have lost loved ones to suicide or those who are struggling themselves with suicidal thoughts and ideas to participate in the Utah County Campus Walk.

Cyd LeMone is also a supporter of PG Hope.

"The walk isn't limited to PG," LeMone said. "We would love any and all communities to join in."

Volunteers are setting up booths and Wal-Mart is providing food. Hope4Utah's Dr. Gregory A. Hudnall will be the keynote speaker at noon and is a former high school principal, student service director and associate superintendent with the Provo City School District.

He has been involved with suicide prevention in Utah for 20 years and been involved with more than 25 suicides as a first responder or consultant.

“We have an amazing event coming up that we would love you to be a part of,” LeMone said online. “This is a walk to fight suicide and raise money to bring mental health conditions out of the darkness. Proceeds from this event will go directly to our local Hope Squads, PG Hope, Hope 4 Utah and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.”

Aiken is a survivor of suicide as a young girl and said she understands the darkness of depression.

“I understand what it’s like to be in that dark place where you truly believe that nobody cares and that everybody would be better off without you,” Aiken said. “I always tell people that’s the lie of depression, when depression lies to us in our brain. When it’s sick, it tells us those big lies that we don’t matter.”

If you are struggling and need help before the walk, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-8255 

Cathy Allred is north Utah County reporter for the Daily Herald and can be reached at heraldextra.ca@gmail.com and followed on Facebook: North County News.