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Finding Meaning in Tragedy

October 2019

McKay Heaton

Provo native McKay Heaton was on his mission in Taipei, Taiwan, when he learned that his brother—who had previously served in the same mission and who McKay had spoken with just a week before—had died by suicide back in Utah.

“My grieving process was very different than it was for my family because I was still in Taiwan,” he says. “Then I came home, and it was a whole new experience. I had to redo the grieving process.”

Instead of letting it get the better of him, McKay used his experience to find a new direction for his studies. He’d always been interested in the way the brain and body work together, so he changed his major to neuroscience and started looking for ways to help prevent suicide and provide support for those coping with it.

“I want to make a difference,” he says. “I tried to start a club at BYU and got involved with Hope for Utah. In January, I started working as a research assistant for professor Erin Holmes doing research on suicide bereavement. I want to get an MD and become a psychiatrist so I can establish something to help people who have lost loved ones to suicide.”

Throughout the year since his mission, McKay has had the help of a Signature Scholarship, which has allowed him to focus on academic pursuits instead of worrying about his finances. “I have seven siblings, and my dad’s an entrepreneur, so our finances are up and down sometimes,” he says. “But the biggest reason I love my scholarship is that I don’t have to stay up all night after working to get my schoolwork done. It makes it easier for me to learn the way I want to learn and have a better college experience.”

McKay knows his story is closer to its beginning than its end, and he wants to make sure he has a positive impact for the world around him. With the help of his Signature Scholarship, he’s well on his way to accomplishing that goal.