“My journey with suicide actually began on July 21, 2014, when my husband took his life in front of me,” Amanda McIntosh told the Moab City Council on Aug. 25.

McIntosh is the Suicide Prevention Specialist at the Southeast Utah Health Department, as well as Vice President of the HOPE Squad of Carbon, Emery, and Grand counties. She presented events planned by the HOPE Squad to mark September as Suicide Prevention Month.

“I’m trying to cultivate a stigma-free environment to talk about mental health,” said McIntosh.

The Hope Squad of Carbon, Emery, and Grand counties’ mission is to prevent deaths by suicide and “educate, promote, and spread awareness for a healthier community.”

The organization is in high gear this month as they commemorate Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month as well as World Suicide Prevention Day this Thursday, Sept. 10. The group will host a candlelight vigil at Moab City Hall (217 E. Center St.) on that day from 7:30 p.m. until 9 p.m. At 8 p.m. worldwide, friends and family members of those who have died by suicide will light candles in remembrance of their loved ones; the candles will burn for one hour. Attendees are asked to wear masks and practice social distancing; electric candles will be provided by the Health Department.

McIntosh noted that Southeast Utah has a high suicide rate compared to the rest of Utah, with Grand County suffering 12 deaths by suicide between 2016 and 2018, according to the Utah Department of Health.

“Suicide is a major public health problem in Utah,” states a Utah Department of Health website, citing the state’s higher-than-national suicide rate.

Risk factors for suicide include substance abuse, mental health disorders, access to lethal methods, family history of suicide or violence, trauma or loss, and school or relationship problems. Protective factors include mental health treatment, positive social connections, and skills in problem-solving and conflict resolution.

For more information, visit the Hope Squad of Carbon, Emery, and Grand counties Facebook page.