By JOHN WELLS & CHRISTIE DILLOWAY• FEB 8, 2019 The #Morning Mix returns this week after its 2-week Sundance hiatus with musical guest Shannon Runyon performing live in the Swede Alley studio, plus guest interviews with Shannon Decker, Co-Founder and Executive Director of The Speedy Foundation, and with Aaron Benward, Creator and Producer of ‘Nashville Unplugged, The Story Behind The Song’, a listening room experience happening at The Rockwell Room on Valentines Day. These guests and a rundown of events happening in our area on The Morning Mix.
Mental health experts and community leaders took part in a panel discussion Tuesday at Nampa High School and addressed how open discourse, among other efforts, can improve suicide prevention and help at-risk youth.
The panel began by sharing Idaho-specific facts about suicide, such as how Idaho, according to the state Department of Health and Welfare, had the eighth-highest suicide rate in the U.S. in 2016. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for Idahoans age 15-34 and for males 44 years old and under.
Many on the panel agreed that just asking the question straightforward, “Are you considering suicide?” is the only way to know without a doubt if someone is considering suicide and an important tool for opening that discussion.
Eric Adams, a phone room supervisor with the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline, is particularly familiar with asking that question. That’s one of the many questions hotline workers ask to assess a caller’s safety.
“We’ll let them tell their stories,” he said. “Sometimes these folks of all ages have never actually said out loud, ‘I’m not doing OK,’ and we ask them, ‘Are you feeling suicidal?’ — ‘Yeah,’ and it’s the first time they ever cognitively put two and two together, that these feelings are suicide thoughts.”
Adams noted the suicide prevention hotline has text message services available to counsel people in crisis. He also said the suicide prevention hotline is a confidential resource, but said if they feel someone is “at imminent risk of suicide” or if they feel a crime is committed, like child abuse or negligence, they must report that information.
Dr. Chris Streeter, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital, echoed points made by other panelists. He said asking the question is his first recommendation for parents worried their child may be at risk, later dispelling potential fears it could have a reverse effect.
“There is absolutely no evidence that you’re somehow going to plant the idea in their head if you ask directly,” Streeter said.
Affected personally by suicides by some close to her, Shannon Decker, executive director of a mental health nonprofit called the Speedy Foundation, said she wishes she’d learned that sooner.
“I know for a fact that if I had been given direct instruction as a teenager, the same way I was given direct instruction in health class about every health issue, that I would have been equipped to ask these questions and potentially have saved some lives,” said Decker, whose cousin Olympic silver medalist Jeret “Speedy” Peterson died of suicide in 2011 and after whom the Speedy Foundation is named.
Many agreed youth suicide prevention must be handled by the whole community. Clinical social worker and therapist Janelle Stauffer, a Nampa school board member, urged that the issue needs to be handled by the whole community.
“In any community, the school district has the greatest access to kids and their families and so can serve as a screening mechanism and provide all the education we’re talking about. But it’s not enough, it’s a limited resource,” Stauffer said, adding later, “This can’t be a K-12 issue. It has to be a community issue.”
BOISE - On the snow, Jeret "Speedy" Peterson seemed to have it all. Idaho's Olympic freestle aerial skier competed in three Olympic Games, winning a silver medal in Vancouver in 2010. He inspired a generation of Olympic hopefuls with his death-defying trick, aptly named "The Hurricane."
But off the snow, Speedy's family says he struggled like anyone else and eventually succumbed to his lifelong battle with depression and anxiety in 2011.
"He spent a lot of the time that he had in front of the media and in the spotlight, talking about the struggles he had," said Shannon Decker, executive director and co-founder of The Speedy Foundation.
Formed in 2011, the foundation's mission is to advocate for suicide prevention and mental health conditions.
According to group, Idaho has the sixth-highest suicide rate in the nation. More than a hundred Idaho school children died by suicide between 2012 and 2016, with 27 of them being age 14 or younger.
And about one in four adults experience a mental disorder each year, but less than 50 percent receive treatment.
"In this day and age we've got people going through life just silent and they've got needs," Decker said. "And the only way to address that is for a person to approach another person and start a conversation. It's to recognize signs of someone struggling and intervene."
In addition to their advocacy and educational work, The Speedy Foundation offers mental health first-aid training to anyone in our community, including educators, parents, coaches, clergy, and law enforcement, just to name a few.
Decker says it's very much like standard first-aid and CPR training, only you're more likely to come across someone who's having a mental health crisis than someone having a heart attack.
"One of the best ways is to talk to them, extend a hand and offer help," Decker said. "It might not be you, but your conversation will be the first place and if you know what the other resources are in our community, you'd be able to link them."
The idea is to increase the awareness of mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, psychosis, ADHD, substance abuse, and eating disorders. Participants don't diagnose conditions, but rather learn how to recognize the signs and where to reach out for additional help.
"The youth version of the curriculum is awesome because it goes into typical adolescent development versus a crisis," Decker said. "So what it teaches us is if something is impacting a person's ability to live, laugh, love or learn, it's something that needs to be addressed. If it's impacting their friendships, their schoolwork, their sleep, something needs to take place."
Decker says she first took the mental health training first aid four years ago with her aunt, Speedy's mom.
"Throughout the entire course, we just kept looking at each other saying, 'God this is it. I wish we would have known this. I wish we would have known it's okay to talk about this. I wish that we would have known these signs that Speedy was showing us and would have been able to take more action.' It's okay to ask someone if they're feeling suicidal, if you think that they might be suicidal. That's the best way to prevent someone from taking their life."
The Speedy Foundation is one of many organizations that provide mental health first-aid training in Idaho. For more information, click here.
If you or someone you know is struggling and need immediate help, call or text the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline at 208-398-HELP (4357). Decker says you don't have to be suicidal to call the hotline. You can call the hotline if you're concerned about someone who might be going though a mental health challenge or crisis. The Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline can help with that, too.
Boise - On Tuesday, Sept. 12, state leaders marked national Suicide Prevention Week with a proclamation signing at the Idaho Statehouse.
Statistics show suicide is the eighth leading cause of death overall in the Gem State.
Organizers say the ceremony was about celebrating how far the state has come in supporting suicide prevention, and bringing a greater awareness to the cause.
"This is all part of the framework of doing the right thing in Idaho," said Lt. Gov. Brad Little. "...of investing in the health and stability of our communities."
"When someone has suicidal thoughts, behaviors or intentions, the outcome is not suicide...not a completed suicide," said Dr. Tobi Gopon of St. Luke's. "The outcome is recovery, and we want people to know that."
There are a variety of suicide prevention resources available, such as the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline. Their number is (208) 398-HELP.
A free public screening of James Redford’s documentary, “RESILIENCE: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope,” a partnership between Optum Idaho, the Idaho Children’s Trust Fund, The Speedy Foundation and the Idaho Federation of Families, is being screened at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Shoshone-Bannock Hotel and Events Center, 777 Bannock Trail in Fort Hall. There also will be a panel discussion, featuring local community health experts.
Redford’s film focuses on the fact that a child may not remember what happened in their early life, but their brain never forgets. It shows how researchers are exploring a biological syndrome caused by abuse and neglect during childhood — called adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). The film demonstrates how the stress of these early experiences can trigger hormones that affect children’s’ brains and bodies, putting them at a greater risk for disease, homelessness, prison time and early death.
Documentary filmmaker James Redford and the principal featured in the film Paper Tigers, Jim Sporleder, were guest speakers. They shared information on research that that shows how scientists are exploring a biological syndrome caused by abuse and neglect during childhood called Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). The film demonstrates how the stress of these early experiences can trigger hormones that affect children’s’ brains and bodies, putting them at a greater risk for disease, homelessness, prison time and early death. Many community professionals attended and talked abouthow the community can help these children.
“13 Reasons Why” could have been written to give hope for suicidal viewers and depict struggling teens seeking and receiving help, said Shannon Decker, executive director of the nonprofit and Peterson’s cousin.
But instead the show recklessly depicted suicide as an act of vengeance taken against those who wronged Hannah, the story’s protagonist, Decker said.
However, the show does give parents a window to broach a difficult subject with their teens, she said. That could be a silver lining in Idaho, which had the ninth-highest suicide rate in the nation in 2015, 46 percent higher than the national average.
“Parents need to step up to the plate,” Decker said. “Sometimes, kids are ready to talk, and parents are the ones who are hesitant. Prepare yourself for an open and honest conversation, and be ready to hear whatever your child shares with you."
Author Fatima Doman and CONNECT Summit County's Shauna Wiest visited the FOX 13 Studio Tuesday morning to talk about unlocking inner strengths and empowering students in Park City School District's "Resilience Week."
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) how do you teach your children resilience and grit? The park city school district plans to focus on that next week in all of their classrooms.
Intervention counselor Samantha Walsh and Fatima Doman the founder, CEO and author of authentic strengths joined Emily Clark on Good Morning Utah to talk about what is takes to teach your children these values.
In collaboration with the Park City School District, The Speedy Foundation, and many other community partners, CONNECT is proud to present Resilience Week in Park City. The week will include the screening of three powerful, award winning films to create crucial dialogue within our community. All of the events are free and the entire family is welcome.
When Connect Summit County and the Speedy Foundation, organizations dedicated to raising awareness about mental health issues, were thinking of organizing a community film screening, they were excited to discover the Park City School District was planning to show two similar films the same week.
Instead of hosting separate events, the three groups formed a partnership, along with the Park City Library, to form Resilience Week, an upcoming series of free film screenings aimed at uniting the community and showing adolescents the strength they have within themselves to take on whatever life throws at them.
The organizers of Resilience Week are hoping it delivers a valuable message to the community's youth and their parents about what it means to be resilient.
"Resilience is built through experiencing and adapting to adverse events over time," she said. "It doesn't mean that you don't feel stress or the emotional impact of events, but you're able to bounce back after getting knocked down without becoming depressed, anxious or even worse — suicidal."
Cook said Speedy not only came to her house to give her daily updates on all of his experiences as a competitor, but he gained worldwide attention when he wrote “Hi, Emily” on his gloves and flashed them at the camera.
“He came to my house and told me all the tiny details,” she said, adding that she wears his belt “on the hill every day” as a tribute to him, just as he wrote on his gloves as a tribute to her. “We celebrated the Olympics in a different way.”
Olympic aerial skier Jeret “Speedy” Peterson was a passionate person.
Even though he accomplished much during the 29 years he lived, Peterson sometimes let his strong emotions manifest in negative ways. Stuck in the darkness of depression, the outgoing athlete took his own life in Park City in 2011.
The Speedy Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to preventing suicide, was named after and created for Peterson, who participated in three Olympics, won a FIS world title and set a world record score for aerial skiing.
“The Speedy Foundation was created in the wake of a much-needed conversation that one person was trying to have,” said Shannon Decker, the organization’s executive director. “After his death, we realized that the conversation Speedy was trying to have was rooted in stigma and misinformation.”
Based in Boise, Idaho, and in Park City, the nonprofit raises money to support mental health education. It also uses funds to conduct outreach regarding mental health advocacy.
“The Speedy Foundation acts as an advocate and educational center on topics of mental illness, adverse childhood experiences, toxic stress and trauma,” Decker said. “These are topics that impact all communities around the world.
Decker said the main goal of the foundation is to let those in situations similar to Speedy’s know it’s OK to talk about depression and mental illness.
“There needed to be a voice out there saying, ‘it’s OK to talk about the things that are hard to talk about,’” Decker said. “It’s OK to talk about depression, anxiety, substance use, abuse, neglect, daily struggles, disappointment, challenging transitions, etc.”
The Speedy Foundation works with the Utah Suicide Prevention Coalition and the Summit County Suicide Prevention Coalition to continue the conversation Speedy started.
Decker said the funds it receives from Live PC Give PC will go to Mental Health First Aid and QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) training programs in the Park City area.
“Once we honestly confront the problem, we can begin to learn and practice resilience strategies and share hope in the lives of those around us.”
The Speedy Foundation teamed up with Optum on Sept. 24 to offer a free Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) course at the Salt Lake County offices in West Valley City. MHFA is an eight-hour course training participants how to identify the common signs of mental illness including depression, anxiety disorders and substance use...“Mental health is not restricted to a particular age group,” Stewart said about traumatic experiences affecting all ages.
Youth mental health classes are also offered for people who regularly interact with adolescents who may be experiencing mental health or addiction challenges.
These classes have become increasingly important in light of a July report from the Utah Department of Health (UDH) stating that suicide is the leading cause of death in Utah for 10- to 17-year-olds.
“We’re in a major youth suicide crisis right now…we need to really hit home in our schools and anywhere we can,” Flood said, adding that the class is great for parents, counselors and educators.
Often times mental health issues can be misjudged as anxiety, stress or being overdramatic, especially in teens Emery said.
“It took me two years to realize that it wasn’t typical teenage rebellion,” Emery said of the experience with her daughter.
Flood said the class shows participants the signs between typical and atypical teenage behavior.
“You can see where a typical teenager will always go on their roller coaster ride to really seeing the signs of isolating and if they’re getting involved with alcohol and drugs,” Flood said.
Severity and time are two of the most important things to look for according to Emery.
“That lets you know it’s not a situational issue,” Emery said.
Tyler Neill has been appointed board president for the Speedy Foundation.
Neill, an attorney in Boise, co-founded The Speedy Foundation. He was close friend of Jeret “Speedy” Peterson, the three-time Olympian for whom the foundation was named.
Neill graduated from College of Idaho in 2004 with degrees in politics & economics and history, and received his law degree from the University of Idaho College of Law in 2007. He received an MS in education/sport psychology from University of Idaho in 2008. Prior to working as an attorney, Tyler was the head women’s tennis coach and associate director of compliance for the University of Idaho. He served as treasurer of The Speedy Foundation board from July 2011 to March 2015.
The foundation is a nonprofit organization created in 2011 with the mission of preventing suicide, promoting conversations to end stigma, and supporting mental health education. The Speedy Foundation raises funds for, and collaborates with, other advocacy groups.
NAMPA - An award-winning documentary that tackles behavioral health issues in children and teens is coming to Idaho to educate the community on the topic.
Optum Idaho, the Idaho Children's Trust Fund, The Speedy Foundation and the Idaho Federation of Families worked together to bring in the free screening of "Paper Tigers."
The film follows the lives of some struggling high school students attending an alternative school in Walla Walla, Washington. While they were there the school changed the way it disciplined the students' behaviors by taking a more positive approach.
The documentary also provides insight into how traumatic childhood experiences can impact someone's adult life. That's why event organizers say they want to start a conversation and educate people to make a change.
"It takes a system to make change, to make positive change," Optum Idaho's executive director Georganne Benjamin said. "The positive response from the community really shows that people want to improve, want to do things differently and better."
Wednesday's screening of "Paper Tigers" is at 6:30 p.m at the Nampa Civic Center.
Alyssa Mitchell, a health educator with the Summit County Health Department, said the Summit County Health Department formed a Suicide Coalition nearly two years ago with representatives from school districts, Valley Behavioral Health and the community at large. One of the group’s main goals right now is the Question, Persuade and Refer program, also known as QPR.
Mitchell said more than 900 students have been reached through the QPR training throughout the various school districts.
“It’s an unfortunate growing trend and here in Summit County we tend to be right with the rest of the state,” Mitchell said. “We are about 16.4 per population of 100,000 people, which is not far off of the state’s 20, and firearms deaths are particularly high here.
“We have recognized that there is a problem for a couple of years now,” Mitchell said. “We are trying to implement some programs to see if we can start getting that number to go down and we just received the mental health survey so hopefully from the data that we get it will help us improve our efforts as well.”
For a copy of the Suicide in Utah report visit http://www.health.utah.gov/vipp. For more information on suicide prevention visit http://utahsuicideprevention.org or call the Statewide CrisisLine at 801-587-3000 or the National Suicide Prevention LifeLine at 1-800-273-TALK.
Photo from right, Jacob Dolph, Matt and Megan Provost, among others, hold signs along Park Ave. near Jans Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016. The group waved to passing cars, encouraging them to honk if they're happy and to smile.
BOISE – Idaho’s suicide rate has long been far above the national average; the state had the 9th highest suicide rate in the country in 2014.
But now, it has something it didn’t have then: A state Office of Suicide Prevention, ongoing state funding for the state’s 24/7 suicide prevention hotline, and an array of groups committed to carrying out a coordinated statewide suicide prevention plan.
State lawmakers this year agreed to create the new state agency, allocated nearly $1 million in ongoing funding, and changed the law that governs the mission of the state Department of Health and Welfare to specifically include suicide prevention.
Advocates celebrated Thursday on the steps of Boise City Hall, where Mayor Dave Bieter issued a proclamation declaring this week Suicide Prevention Week in Boise, and paid tribute to all those who worked to make it happen, including the Speedy Foundation, which formed after Boise native Jaret “Speedy” Peterson, an Olympic silver medalist in 2010 in freestyle skiing, took his own life while battling depression in 2011. The foundation works to prevent suicide, promote conversation to end stigma, and support mental health education.
Kim Kane, director of the new state Office of Suicide Prevention, said, “I think they played important roles in public awareness.”
Nate Fisher, executive director of the Idaho Suicide Prevention Coalition, said when he spoke with legislators, many said they or their families or friends had been affected by suicide. “The stats in Idaho are alarming,” Fisher said. “In talking with legislators about it, almost to a person, they had a story.
BOISE, Idaho - Boise Mayor Dave Bieter has proclaimed this week – Sept. 5 through Sept. 11 -- as Suicide Prevention Week.
Suicide awareness has also been the focus of a collaboration by a task force created by Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter and the Speedy Foundation.
As a young student, Jaret "Speedy" Peterson made a tile of artwork proclaiming that someday he would win an olympic medal.
The aerial skier went on become a three-time olympian who won the silver medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
The Speedy Foundation was formed in 2011, after "Speedy" took his own life. .
The governor’s task force worked with the Speedy Foundation to form the Suicide Prevention Coalition, which successfully lobbied for funding to launch Idaho's Suicide Prevention Hotline. The hotline is now available 24/7 and is expanding into social media.
BOISE -- Thursday afternoon, state and community leaders gathered outside Boise City Hall to celebrate the collective efforts that are underway to help prevent suicide in Idaho.
“One of the reasons we love living in Boise and in Idaho is people reach out and help each other but they've really done some amazing things,” said Boise Mayor David Bieter.
The event was co-hosted by the City of Boise and The Speedy Foundation, an organization created to raise awareness about mental health after the suicide of Olympic skier Jeret “Speedy” Peterson in 2011.
“It just feels wonderful to have your family support you and that's what Boise is, Boise is just a giant family,” said Shannon Decker, executive director of The Speedy Foundation.
In the past five years The Speedy Foundation has helped spearhead the creation of Idaho's first suicide coalition, a group that has lobbied together for more state funding for its collective cause.
MAYOR DAVID BIETER NAMED SEPT. 5 THROUGH 11 SUICIDE PREVENTION WEEK IN THE CITY.
In 2011, Boise lost three-time Olympic skier Jeret “Speedy” Peterson to suicide. His family launched The Speedy Foundation nonprofit to combat suicide. The executive director of the foundation, Shannon Decker, said at the news conference that each person can contribute by volunteering or donating to a suicide prevention organization, or by reaching out to someone needing help.
“There is hope,” she said. “There is help. There is recovery.”
The Idaho Health Quality Planning Commission and the Idaho Legislature have identified suicide as the No. 1 public health issue facing our state, and over this past legislative session, nearly $1 million was approved to start funding for prevention efforts in the state’s budget. The support was not easy to obtain, but thanks to many individuals and organizations fighting for mental health and suicide prevention, both public and private, the legislation passed and Gov. Butch Otter signed into law. This funding is directed at four key strategies outlined by the commission.
▪ Funding for a state office on suicide prevention. This critical program, under the Department of Health and Welfare, will be tasked to coordinate and implement strategies on suicide prevention in concert with the Idaho Suicide Prevention Plan.
▪ Sustainable funding for the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline. This valuable resource to our communities will now have 60 percent of its annual funding needs provided by the state and a wonderful public/private arrangement to generate sustainable funding annually.
▪ School prevention programming. Evidence shows that gatekeeper training, peer mentorship and resiliency programs do work to prevent suicide and other mental and physical health problems in K-12 and university school settings.
▪ Awareness campaigns. Our society has embraced campaigns regarding seat belts, tobacco (Idaho Filter Project), methamphetamine (Idaho Meth Project) and many others over the years, but we have not collectively addressed awareness around mental health and suicide prevention. Funding is in place to begin just such a program, which is a step to significantly chip away at the stigmas associated with mental health and suicide.
As with any medical condition, proper diagnosis is the first step to treatment. These efforts and others under the direction of the state office will have a great impact on how we screen, diagnose and set up treatment for mental health, no differently that we should for cancer, diabetes, heart and other physical ailments for all ages. The human brain is the most complex organ in the body, and we give it the least attention. This is changing and, yes, will take time, energy and funding, but if it saves just one life, it is worth it. The life saved may be your own child, grandchild, family member or neighbor.
Shannon Decker has been appointed executive director of the Speedy Foundation.
Decker, a co-founder of the foundation, received a master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of Idaho and has ten years of private and public teaching and administrative experience in Idaho, Nevada and California. She is a mental health first aid facilitator who offers trainings in Idaho and Utah to further the foundation’s mission of promoting mental health education and advocating for suicide prevention.
Peterson was an American World Cup aerial skier and three-time Olympian who was based at Bogus Basin and won the silver medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. He died at age 29 in 2011.
The nonprofit Speedy Foundation was founded in 2011 by Peterson’s friends and family to prevent suicide, promote conversations to end stigma, and support mental health education. The Speedy Foundation raises funds for, and collaborates with, other advocacy groups.
The Speedy Foundation (TSF) and FACES Family Justice Center held a Mental Health First Aidtraining July 13 for staff members, including law enforcement, medical providers, prosecuting attorneys, victim advocates, and community resource professionals.
FACES identified MHFA training as a critical need for the center’s mission.
In just five short years, The Speedy Foundation, like its namesake, has taken off. Helping to create Idaho's first suicide prevention hotline, and teaching mental health education to hundreds of people in Utah, Idaho and now right here in Speedy's hometown of Boise.
“It’s very much like first aid, it’s very much like CPR,” said Decker. “But you’re more likely to come across someone who is having a mental health crisis than you are to someone who is having a heart attack.”
The foundation has teamed up with FACES, a center for victims of abuse, sexual assault, and domestic violence. Together they are teaching mental health first aid in the Treasure Valley.
“How to help someone when you recognize these signs and how to just be a resource, how to listen, how to reach out for help where to reach out for help,” said Decker.
The goal is to give hope to those who need it, while honoring the man who gave hope to so many.
“I’d like to see no suicides is what I’d like to see,” said FACES COO Jean Fisher. “I think we have a lot of reason to be hopeful. I think we finally have resources to make that happen, to make that a reality.”
“To take that tragedy and our feelings of loss, it’s very easy to transition it into something that is hopeful, into eliminating the pain that we felt and the pain that he felt for anyone else,” said Decker.
SALT LAKE CITY -- Knowing CPR or the Heimlich maneuver may save a life, but what if you come in contact with someone suffering a mental or emotional crisis? Would you know what to do? Fortunately, Optum and The Speedy Foundation have teamed up to provide free mental health first aid training.
Major life changes such as a breakup, loss of job, or the death of a loved one can trigger situational depression. Those are times someone might be having some difficulty. So check-in, be straightforward, and if they're struggling, ask tough questions.
"Don't be afraid to ask the real question that you want to know. 'Are you thinking about killing yourself?'" emphasizes Flood.
SALT LAKE CITY – Research shows roughly one in four people deal with mental health issues in Utah, and a new class is providing people the "first aid" lessons they need to help loved ones who are suffering.
“These classes provide an amazing bridge to understanding what mental health is, the various levels of it, and how you can start talking to somebody,” said Katie Flood of The Speedy Foundation.
Experts say mental health is a subject that's been scary to talk about in the past but isn't so easy to avoid anymore. Suicide is a major health problem in Utah and a leading cause of preventable death.
SALT LAKE CITY — As inner-city service missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Don and Julie Stewart's assignment to the Rio Grande Branch near many of the city's homeless services providers carried a steep learning curve.
"We're constantly dealing with mental illness and not knowing how to deal with it, how to handle it, how to recognize it or the right things to do or the wrong things," Don Stewart said.
To help inform and guide their efforts, the Stewarts are enrolled in a Mental Health First Aid class where they are learning to recognize signs of mental health crises and suicide and to develop an action plan to help someone in crisis.
The Stewarts say the training is so valuable, they've enrolled in the eight-hour class for a second time.
"This class was a game changer for us. It was like, 'OK help us understand,' because we were not addressing the mental heath issues. We were, 'Let's get you back to work. Let's get you housed. Let's get you out of the shelter,' and people were just coming right back to the shelter," Julie Stewart said.
The training is provided free of charge in a partnership between The Speedy Foundation, which was formed in honor of three-time Olympian Jeret "Speedy" Peterson, who died by suicide in July 2011, and Optum, which manages Salt Lake County's mental health and substance use services under contract with the county's Division of Behavioral Health Services.
Three-time Olympic freestyle skier Emily Cook sits on the board of The Speedy Foundation, a philanthropic organization dedicated to understanding mental illness through education, research and advocacy, founded in honor of Olympic medalist aerialist Jeret "Speedy" Peterson. She is also involved in the organization Right To Play.