In an effort to address the many issues currently plaguing our state and local communities, the Wetzel County Board of Education will be hosting a public event from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday, April 26, at the Magnolia High School Auditorium in New Martinsville.
Through a partnership made possible with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s West Virginia Chapter — Wetzel County will be host to two national speakers to help open the dialogue about these important topics that affect the lives of individuals around us daily; the opioid crisis and overall addiction issues, in additional to mental health conditions, lack of care, suicide prevention and bullying.
As a dedicated advocate, Taryn Aiken-Hiatt shares her story and passion to give hope and to educate our communities about suicide. She is a survivor of her own attempts as well as a survivor of suicide loss, losing her father Tarry Aiken in October of 2002. Aiken-Hiatt is a founding member of the Utah Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and has tirelessly volunteered for the past 14 years.
She believes in the power of hope to save lives. Aiken-Hiatt has found her way out of the darkest night of the soul and found healing and recovery from trauma and addiction. She knows that we are our greatest healer when we face the darkness and open the wound to allow light to fill every corner. She believes we must create a culture that is smart about mental health.
A cosmetologist for 20 years, spending most of her time as an educator for the Paul Mitchell School, Aiken-Hiatt now dedicates her time in schools and communities across the nation regarding mental health matters and suicide prevention. She has facilitated hundreds of seminars while sharing tools and resources to help build resiliency in communities.
Aiken-Hiatt recently completed her bachelor’s degree in psychology at Utah Valley University and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in social work.
Her efforts have spanned the gamut of participating in national Out of the Darkness Overnight Walks while walking all night long to raise awareness for suicide prevention, to testifying on Capitol Hill for Mental Health Care Reform and so much more in between. An advocate for not only others but also for herself, Aiken-Hiatt’s openness about her experiences and the need for “self-care” in today’s world is awe-inspiring.
As a person in long-term recovery from substance abuse, Ryan Hiatt shares his story to help educate communities and provide a message of hope that recovery is possible and worth it. His addiction to opiates, cocaine and alcohol left him in multiple hospital beds due to overdoses, then finally landed him in the Utah State Prison system.
On May 5, Hiatt will celebrate seven years of continuous sobriety. He wrote a book about his journey through addiction and in recovery, “Have I Had Enough?” The book was published this year. He believes in the power of faith over fear and is an advocate for self-discovery and the power of change.
“I spent so much of my life trapped in the clutches and chains of addiction … the whispers in my mind that came from my addiction nearly killed me and caused a swath of pain to all those around me. But today, I live in the solution,” he said. “I fight for something different — because I am worth it, you are worth it, and all of us are worth it.”
The husband-wife warriors are often the light on a dark night for others. Their voices of reason come from the experiences of knowing a darkness that many who haven’t ever been in that place struggle to comprehend.
“Through research and education, we have learned the importance of listening to those who’ve walked this journey and found hope through recovery for us to move forward and help others around us.” Said Ed Toman, superintendent of Wetzel County Schools.
“It is a great honor to have both Taryn and Ryan here in the days ahead. I only know them as the incredible advocates and human beings they are today, to know the depths of where they’ve come from, to understand the programs and tools they utilize to live in recovery and to see them dedicate their lives to helping others, that gives me hope for our state moving forward. I can’t put into words what this could mean for some of the families here in our communities struggling through these same issues — the same things Taryn and Ryan have worked diligently to overcome. They ARE hope and proof that recovery is possible.”
The community presentation will last approximately 90 minutes with an open-forum type of opportunity for questions after. The first 25 attendees will receive a free autographed copy of Hiatt’s book. Additional books will be available for purchase, and light refreshments will be served.
“It is our hope that families and individuals who have been impacted by addiction, overdose or mental health conditions and suicide — will feel compelled to join us for a night of Hope Through Recovery where there is no stigma, no shame — only understanding, help and ultimately hope for the days ahead,” Toman said.
This invitation to participate is open to the public — individuals, families, first responders, mental health professionals, civic/faith-based organizations, etc.
For questions, contact Terry Greene at the Wetzel County Schools Central Office 304-455-2441 (ext. 110).
If you or someone you know is struggling, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or visit www.AFSP.org/FindSupport. For help with addiction or for a treatment referral resource, contact the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).