Brandy Vega’s daughter was 14 when she sat beside her, not knowing if her daughter was going to survive. “I remember being in the hospital and looking at her lifeless body and praying to God, ‘Please save her.’ Telling him that I would do absolutely anything in the world if he would just give me a second chance,” Vega said. “And by the way, this was our second chance.”

Vega’s daughter had previously tried to take her own life at the age of 12. By a miracle, her daughter survived, but the Utah mom knew she wouldn’t get another chance.

As a mother, Vega realized she had to change the way she approached the conversation of suicide to help her daughter. After her daughter’s first attempt, “We didn’t talk about it. Because of the pain and shame, or fear and all the things, all the reasons we don’t talk about mental health and suicide and addiction, and sexual abuse and trauma,” she said.

On Thursday, Vega shared her family’s journey with mental health in front of a crowd, along with a four-person panel who shared their expertise and tools regarding mental health, at the Mental Health Promise2Live Silicon Slopes Town Hall event.

Vega started Promise2Live as her call to action following her daughter's attempt to take her own life. The event was a way to unite Utah business leaders, supporters and collaborators to discover practical and effective strategies for approaching mental health in the workplace.

Mental health in the workplace

“Our mission is to increase awareness in the business sector regarding mental health because people aren’t leaving their mental health issues at home,” panelist Dave Morgan, a licensed psychologist and director of mental health awareness for Silicon Slopes, said in the event Thursday.

Morgan emphasized that mental health struggles are not something people just leave at the door of their businesses when they clock in each day and then pick right back up when they clock out.

According to the latest statistics by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, in 2021, there were an average of 132 suicides per day with 48,183 total deaths by suicide, but an estimated 1.7 million attempts.

“Men died by suicide 3.90 times more than women,” and “white males accounted for 69.68% of suicide deaths in 2021,” the statistics found.

Morgan shared that because mental health is so complex, there are a number of strategies to help a person find solutions to their pain. There are five aspects of a person’s life that he said, although they are separate when you make a change to one, it improves other parts of the brain:

  1. Mental.
  2. Social.
  3. Emotional.
  4. Physical.
  5. Spiritual.

“If you have someone that’s struggling with suicidal behavior, and you’re trying to help them, and maybe spiritual isn’t their thing, but they love to run, (then) physically they can start there, (and) that’s going to have an effect on their system,” Morgan explained. “And maybe they’re not a runner, but they love to connect with someone emotionally. So that’s where they start and begin going to therapy, and that helps. Anything that can be done is a good place to start.”

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Suicide prevention in the U.S.

“Utah Sen. Daniel Thatcher initiated the idea for a three-digit crisis line in Utah, and it resulted in a national hotline,” per the Utah Senate. In July 2022, the United States launched the 988 crisis hotline for mental health.

“In its first six months, more than 2 million people in crisis have availed themselves of the service, using phone calls, chats and text messages which funnel to local mental health crisis centers. The line is free, confidential and operates all the time,” the Deseret News previously reported.

However, since the launch of 988, Vega stressed that nearly 80% of Americans don’t know it exists.

To bring awareness, Vega gave each guest a small medallion that she called pocket hugs. “When times are tough and you don’t know what to do, here is a hug from me to you,” the Promise2Live token reads with the 988 crisis hotline information on it as well.

Having open and honest communication with your loved ones can be pivotal in saving a person's life; Vega said, “Honest questions, get honest answers.” Vega encouraged the audience to go home and ask their loved ones if they are okay, if they are struggling or having thoughts of suicide.

“You will not plant the idea. You will open the conversation for real love and support and a genuine connection,” she added.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by calling or texting 988 or chatting online at 988lifeline.org.