Garrett Smith was not too different than the average student. On the Sunday before his 22nd birthday, he changed his voicemail message to, “This is Smith. I’m not feeling well. Please don’t call me any more.”
When he failed to show up for class on Monday, one of his friends went to check on him. He had committed suicide.
Like many in this area, Smith was raised in the Mormon faith by good and loving parents, served a two year service mission for his church and, upon returning, enrolled in school.
Smith, however, struggled with dyslexia and depression. Because of his dyslexia, he qualified to have his textbooks put on CDs each semester by Accessibility Services to ease his educational experience.
Accessibility Services is where J.C. Graham, currently the program coordinator for suicide prevention, first met Smith. Graham was the counselor responsible for helping him get everything ready for the new semester.
“In September of 2003, on a Friday afternoon, he came into my office and met with me,” Graham said. “I set up the arrangements so he could get his accommodations, and that was the last time I saw him.”
In his book, REMEMBERING GARRETT, Garrett Smith’s father, Sen. Gordon Smith, describes his reaction upon learning of his son’s death and having to face the grief that accompanied the sorrowful situation.
“Shock and numbness held me for a moment above what looked to be the blackest depths of sorrow and failure,” Sen. Smith wrote. “…I buckled under the weight of my life’s greatest tragedy.”
Sen. Smith was one of eight UVU students to commit suicide in 2003.
“Since 2003, we have had two to three [UVU] students a year die by suicide,” Graham said.
According to the facts and figures gathered for the book, the second leading cause of death among college students is suicide.
The website www.Save.org states that suicide is the third leading cause of death amongst people ages 15-24. It also states that, on average, one person dies by suicide every 16.2 minutes.
The facts can be sobering.
Because prevention and awareness are essential, there are programs in place to offer the students and faculty on campus assistance. If anyone is experiencing thoughts of suicide, or know of someone who is, 1-800-273-TALK is a 24-hour hotline. A trained professional will be able to assist and give references to local resources.
Students can also come to the Student Health Services in SC 221, where they can be seen by a licensed therapist right away. If students are in crisis, be sure to notify the receptionist that it is an emergency.
It is also important to be aware of other people. Take notice of friends and how they are doing. Lending a hand to friends and associates is a great way to be proactive and prevent suicide.
“It’s crucial that people have a support system and be proactive in their mental health treatment,” Graham said. “It’s really important that we decrease the stigma associated with mental illness, and as a community, as a society, as a people, we just need to be so proactive in helping each other.”
The Provo HOPE Task Force will be hosting a suicide prevention walk as part of National Suicide Prevention Week. It will start at 8 a.m. on Sept. 11 at the Clark Auditorium in the Northwest Plaza of Utah Valley Regional Medical Center.
The walk is done not only to raise awareness about suicide, but also to advocate prevention. The event is free. Students and community members alike are invited to show their support.
The UVU chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, will be participating in the walk as well. Students interested in the becoming involved with the NAMI club can contact Co-President Denise Windley at [email protected] This club can also be found on Facebook.