1 suicide, 2 attempts in span of 1 week prompts officials to discuss prevention

Posted at 9:21 PM, Feb 26, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-26 23:22:41-05

UTAH COUNTY -- One suicide and two attempts in the span of a week at Lone Peak High School in Utah County are prompting heightened focus on the issue.

FOX 13 News has confirmed that a person who jumped to their death at a FrontRunner stop Wednesday was a student at the school.

"It’s very emotional,” said Chief Joseph McRae of the Lone Peak Fire Department.

McRae’s department is not unaccustomed to responding to suicides in the community. In November of last year, they saw two suicides within two weeks in the Alpine School District. The numbers prompted the school to host a suicide prevention forum with parents and staff. Since then, their efforts have only increased. Recently, the school created a video with a message from teachers to students: “We see you.”

"I have kids that go here," McRae said. "I feel the pain of these parents, principal, students. It's hard. Obviously, with our youth, there is something that's lacking. I think that as parents and leaders we're doing everything we can to address this, try to change this."

That effort begins with communication, according to Taryn Aiken of the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention. A parent in Pleasant Grove, Aiken said the public needs to become more comfortable with talking about suicide in schools and in the community.

"I think the stigma that surrounds suicide and mental illness is what we've got to eliminate,” Aiken said.

Studies show that a series of suicides or attempts so close together, like those at Lone Peak, are becoming more common due to social media and a lack of appropriate discussion on the issue. Aiken worries about the impact sites like Twitter and Facebook can have on a young person battling depression.

"Unfortunately, somebody posts something and then you get this barrage of people that feed into it and encourage,” she explained. "Somebody that's not at risk for suicide, that isn't already struggling, isn't going to see that somebody died and go, ‘Oh, that's my option.’ Somebody that's already struggling that sees somebody die, that's now out of pain, and the amount of attention, then yeah."

Lone Peak is working with the organization Hope4Utah to address the problem in the school. Friday, members of the group plan to sit down with community and church leaders to help educate them on how to better discuss suicide and depression with their residents.

“It’s so important for parents to talk to their kids,” McRae said. “What may not seem like a big problem to us could be a crisis for them. We need to communicate.”

For more information about suicide prevention, visit Hope4Utah's website.

If you are having suicidal thoughts or know someone who is struggling, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The hotline is staffed 24/7.