SALT LAKE CITY — In Utah, suicide is the leading cause of death among teens, and the Utah Department of Health has unveiled a plan to prevent it.
Utah’s statistics paint a grim picture: The Beehive State is eighth in the nation for overall suicide rates, and seventh in youth rates. On average, two Utahns die from suicide every day, and 12 are treated for suicide attempts.
“We've been consistently higher than the national average for many years now,” said Andrea Hood, Suicide Prevention Coordinator, Utah Department of Health.
UDOH has teamed up with Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health and Utah Suicide Prevention Coalition. Their goal is to combat the issue.
One of their main objectives is to remove access to firearms, the most common method of suicide deaths for Utahns.
“If your friend was drinking, you would hold on to their keys to protect them from themselves," Hood said. "When you're in a crisis state, you're impaired in a similar way and so your friend can hold on to their firearm temporarily until things get better."
Leaders will push for more community and school based programs to help parents communicate with their teens. They’ve seen success with the Safe Utah App introduced last year. Thousands of students have used the app to text in safety concerns and communicate with a crisis counselor.
“There's been a number of lives actually saved - active rescues where these kids have been tracked down, found, rescued in an acutely suicidal moment,” said Hood.
Health leaders also plan to build more gay-straight alliances in Utah.
They say a safety net where LGBTQ teens feel safe is necessary. The problem is, they don’t have the data to show if sexual orientation is related to suicide risk. Right now, they can only generalize from national data.
“In 2017, for the first time we're including a sexual orientation question on our youth school based population survey,” said Hood. “We're really hopeful that will lead us more to those answers.”
There is help available if you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts. You can call suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.