NewsLocal News


Teens anonymously discuss drugs, depression to State Opioid Task Force

Posted at 6:55 PM, Dec 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-06 16:57:42-05

SALT LAKE CITY — It’s not something many find easy to talk about, mental health— more than 20 percent of people in Utah suffer from depression. Julie Rael, the Chief Clinical Officer at Valley Behavioral Health, said. People who suffer from depression often have episodes in the winter, she said.

Depression is something that impacts teens in the state as well, Brett Peterson, Dir. of the Division of Juvenile Justice Services for the State of Utah, said.

“When we look at Utah’s suicide rates, the challenges that we see with depression in the state and things like that. Those are still very, very real,” he said.

Ciara Gregovich is the Program Manager for State Opioid Task Force. She visits schools, businesses, faith groups and other organizations to talk about the dangers of drugs.

“We first need to look at what takes us to addiction,” she said.

At the end of each talk, Gregovich offers up a safe space for people to anonymously discuss concerns or things they may want to share. This is sometimes in person, and other times people write it down. Gregovich shared some of the anonymous answers from teens with FOX13.

“I know many people who have access to guns and drugs. I know people who smoke weed and have access to vape,” one anonymous letter read. “I feel that it is so hard to be me,” another said.

People are going through a lot, Gregovich said.

“I say that addiction is a byproduct of unaddressed mental health and I think that’s what’s happening here in Utah, a lot of hurt,” she said.

This time of year can add to people’s hurt with the cold weather and holidays, Gregovich said.

“I think when we have these societal pressures to be perfect and we don’t know how to cope with different emotions, there is a possibility for increased use of substances,” she said.

She hopes this will serve as a reminder to people to create a safe space and talk to teens that may be going through something, even if it doesn’t seem like it.

A few years ago, the Utah Juvenile Justice System went through a reform. One of the goals was to create safe spaces for teens.

“For far too long, we have dealt with mental health, we have dealt with substance abuse through the criminal justice system,” Peterson said. The goal is to serve kids through schools, homes and communities, not in the system.

There is help out there if you or someone you know needs help. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting ‘HOME’ to 741-741 to reach a crisis counselor or you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. For more hotlines serving Utah, click here

For more information on the various types of outreach offered, call the DEA at 801-524-4156.