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Coalition releases plan to lower high suicide, overdose rate in Utah

Mental health in the workplace 100919
Posted at 11:43 AM, Oct 21, 2021

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's Department of Health (UDOH) released data Thursday on suicide and overdoses during the pandemic as and while the numbers haven't significantly increased, they are still high.

To help bring this number down, interventions are outlined in the new Utah Suicide Prevention State Plan, 2022-2026 released by the Utah Suicide Prevention Coalition. The plan was developed by suicide prevention professionals, researchers, healthcare workers, LGBTQ+ advocates, survivors, family members, and others affected by suicide.

“We know that prevention works, treatment is effective, and people can and do recover from suicidal thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Together we can make a difference by providing caring, culturally appropriate, and evidenced-based interventions . . . ” said Allison Foust, suicide prevention program administrator with the Utah Department of Human Services and co-chair of the Utah Suicide Prevention Coalition.

On average, 640 Utahns die by suicide each year, and another 6,500 are treated in emergency departments for suicide-related behaviors.

“There’s no doubt the pandemic has placed additional stresses on individuals, families, and communities. But the fact is, the vast majority of people effectively manage crises, serious mental illness, and extremely difficult circumstances," said Michael Staley, suicide prevention research coordinator with the UDOH.

Key findings show that the number of suicides, suicide attempts, drug overdoses, and emergency room visits for drug overdoses have largely remained steady since January, 2020.

Calls received by the Utah Crisis Line (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) have steadily increased over time, a trend that has been seen for several years.

“While an increasing number of calls to the crisis line could mean more individuals are experiencing distress, this increase may also mean more Utahns are seeking help rather than suffering in silence,” said Staley.

Getting care in a timely manner is critical for people experiencing increased emotional, mental, or substance use related concerns. To find help, Utah health experts urge people to call 800-273-TALK (8255) or visit liveonutah.org. Help with substance abuse can be found at 211utah.org, or opidemic.org.

Copies of the data report are available here.