Ivins event raises money for families and awareness of teen suicide

Photo by Vichai Phububphapan | iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

IVINS — Hundreds of people attended and participated in a benefit production Saturday in Ivins that promoted suicide prevention, especially among teens in Utah.

“#LiveAndLove Suicide Prevention and Benefit Concert” was held at the Tuacahn Hafen Theater and included singing, dancing and other artistic presentations, many performed by high school students.

Kalamity Dance Group and other participants at the “#LiveAndLove Suicide Prevention and Benefit Concert” at the Tuacahn Hafen Theater, Ivins, Utah, March 3, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Tiffany McDonald, St. George News

Utah’s teen suicide rate is twice the national average, and the number of teen deaths from suicide more than doubled between 2011 and 2015. It is now the leading cause of death for Utah’s youth and Gov. Gary Herbert made the issue a priority in his State of the State address in January.

The Ivins event was also held to raise money for the families of Josh Valantine and Matt Peranen. Valantine died in December, leaving a wife and two teenage daughters, while Peranen, a student at Pine View High School, died in January at the age of 16.

Tuacahn High School student and event organizer, Lainee McDonald, sang at the teen’s funeral.

That’s when she decided enough is enough, saying the issue of teen suicide is a topic that many don’t want to talk about, but it needs to be addressed.

“I’ve sang at way too many funerals,” McDonald said, adding “and it’s something that people are afraid to talk about, so I want to bring this important issue to light.”

Reception area where baked goods and other items were offered during “#LiveAndLove Suicide Prevention and Benefit Concert” at the Tuacahn Hafen Theater, Ivins, Utah, March 3, 2018 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

McDonald said she wanted to organize an event that would make a difference, and with the help of Tia Stokes with the Kalamity Dance Group, they set out to host Saturday’s affair.

Kalamity Dance Group has raised more than $500,000 over the last decade for families in need.

McDonald was also one of the evening’s performers, along with Kalamity from The Vault dance studio, Abe Hedgwald, The Wooden Tantrums and many others.

Watch a YouTube video of the event by clicking here.

Laura Warburton, who lost her daughter to suicide a few years ago, created “Live Hannah’s Hope” to empower youth and reduce suicide through research, education, awareness and advocacy.

Warburton also submitted a video that was shown during one of the intermissions with a message to teens.

The event raised more than $1,500, which will be used to help the Valantine and Peranen families, Tiffany McDonald said.

For more information or to donate to the Josh Valantine and Matt Peranen families fund go to Youcaring by clicking here.

The problem in Utah

In 2017, 42 youths age 10-17 died by suicide in Utah, up from 33 suicides in that age group in 2016, prompting Herbert to form a task force to tackle the state’s soaring youth suicide numbers in late January.

That is after Utah requested a federal investigation to get more in-depth research done when the rate of suicides among youth 10-17 more than doubled from 2011 to 2015, according to the 2016 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report made public in December.

The peak of 44 youth suicides in 2015 marked an all-time high — and was more than double the yearly average from the previous two decades, state statistics show.

More than half — 55 percent — of the Utah suicides from 2011-2015 had experienced a recent crisis, most of which developed in either family or dating relationships, the report found.

“I wanted to kick off this campaign and raise my voice to ask the community to come together to help prevent suicide,” Lainee McDonald said.

The Utah Department of Health provides these suicide-related resources:

  • To get involved in suicide prevention efforts in Utah or to find a suicide prevention training near you, click here.
  • Those experiencing suicidal thoughts can reach out for free, confidential help 24/7 by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or by clicking here.
  • The SafeUT Crisis Text & Tip Line app is also available for download.
  • Suicide prevention resources for LGBTQ youth are available by clicking here.

Email: cblowers@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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