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Suicide survivor works to prevent needless deaths

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SALT LAKE CITY — Suicide survivors are six times more likely to die by suicide than people who have not been touched by suicide, studies show, but one survivor is working hard to break that cycle.

"My dad had battled depression my whole life," said Taryn Aiken, co-chair of the Utah Chapter of the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention. "I just think it was a shame for him to admit what was really going on."

Aiken said her father wasn't able to get the right treatment. He thought it was character flaw. Several members of Aiken's family live with depression, though, including her.

"It's something we know now that we have to do what we need to do to address it," she said.

She attempted suicide several times as a teenager. Finally, when she was hospitalized at 15, she began to understand there was something chemically wrong with her brain — not with her personally. Aiken says she still has dark thoughts but now knows how to handle them.

"I do have the power here that I can work towards a solution," Aiken said. "I don't have to keep living this way; there are things I can do to get better."

Warning signs to watch for:
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Writing or talking about dying
  • Statements of feeling hopeless and talking about being a burden to others

As co-chair of the Utah Chapter of the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention, Aiken is also helping others get better.

"I think people are afraid to talk about it; people don't understand the brain can get sick just like any other part of our body can get sick," she said. "We have to reduce that."


Talking to someone and reaching out is the first step, she said.

"Life does get better, and even when it's those hard, dark times, you can get through them," she said. "You just need to acknowledge that something is wrong, (and) let's work together to try to figure out what we can do to get you help."

Aiken said the more honest people are who may be struggling with suicidal thoughts, the more help they will get.

"The more honest we are and the more of us that will speak out and say that we are struggling when we are, then the more people will hopefully start to reach out and get help," she said.

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Candice Madsen and Aundrea Peterson


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