HEALTHY MIND MATTERS

New Program Offers Hope To Utahns Struggling With Mental Health

Mar 1, 2021, 8:14 PM | Updated: 8:43 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — A program in Utah brought new life to those suffering with mental health issues.

KSL TV spoke to one woman who never thought she’d still be alive until the Power of Hope program found her.

Most people have the same look on their faces when they see freeway traffic, but where they see all those cars zooming by as an annoyance, Salt Lake County resident Courtney Earnhart saw them as an opportunity.

“I was just miserable, absolutely miserable,” said Earnhart. “I was kind of getting open-minded about the possibility of hurting myself.”

To this day, Earnhart still can’t explain why she saw traffic as her way out.

“When someone is suicidal or ready to end their life, they’ve lost all hope. There’s nowhere left for them to turn and it’s absolutely heartbreaking,” she said. 

She saw traffic as a way out.

“Oh gosh. How many times did I run into the road? Probably in the hundreds,” she said.

She has caused crashes, including one where the driver almost rolled over trying to avoid her.

“I just felt gross because I will never be able to tell that person how sorry I am,” said Earnhart. “I almost killed them. They almost rolled. I almost killed somebody.”

Earnhart has spoken to several mental health doctors, all trying to help her figure out why she kept doing this.

“I did grow up with childhood trauma,” she said. “I was physically and sexually abused by a family member.”

That abuse started when she was 11 years old and went until she was 18.

The thing is, Earnhart wanted to live, she just kept getting urges to stop living.

“There was something wrong and I couldn’t figure out what it was,” said Earnhart. “I had been hospitalized 19 times because of this.”

Nothing worked until she met Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Mike Terry about a year ago. At that time, he was tasked to help create a new program for people like Earnhart.

“Coming to this assignment, it was eye-opening to realize I have a bigger job,” said Terry.

Instead of continuing the cycle of arrest, hospitalize, get out, and repeat — this new program called the Power of Hope would bring together law enforcement, mental health experts, as well as legal defense and prosecution, to work with people one-on-one.

“How do we actually solve the problem? How do we move beyond just a conviction?” said Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill.

As part of this new multi-agency program, Gill created within his office the first ever victim support services division to help victims beyond just a referral to a doctor.

“Victims are looking to be seen, to be heard, to be responded to in a way that people understand their pain and their trauma of what they’re going through,” said Gill. 

For Earnhart, she noticed right away that it was a different program.

Working with a team of people, Earnhart got better.

She said if she gets an odd urge, she can call someone on her team who is always willing to listen.

“They actually care. Most people are like, ‘Oh, you’re crazy. Goodbye,'” said Earnhart. “They’ve been there for me since day one and I’m so grateful for that, so grateful for that.” 

Along with Sgt. Terry, Christopher Chin and Daisy Hodson, who are on the Power of Hope team for the Utah Highway Patrol, recently received an award from Gill’s office for the work they’ve done with this program.

It’s a lot of time and a lot of resources to help one person, but Earnhart shows it’s worth it.

“Night and day, different person,” said Sgt. Mike Terry. “You wouldn’t realize the amount of change that has been made from a year ago today.”

The person has to be willing to do it, but the help is there, to the point where Earnhart said she doesn’t even recognize her former self.

“I feel like for the first time in my life, I’m not alone,” said Earnhart.

Truly, the power of hope.

KSL 5 TV Live

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New Program Offers Hope To Utahns Struggling With Mental Health