SALT LAKE CITY — Utah ranks in the top ten states across the country for suicide deaths. For members of the LGBTQ+ community, the suicide rate is even higher. In order to help prevent suicide deaths, the Department of Human Services drafted Utah's first ever LGBTQ+ Suicide Prevention Plan this week.
"The fact that this is even happening really speaks volumes to, OK, we see that there's a crisis," said Nick Arteaga, the community programs coordinator with the Utah Pride Center. "Let's do what we can to lower those numbers."
The Utah Pride Center says one of the key factors in suicide prevention within the LGBTQ+ community is access to quality healthcare services.
"Not just access to healthcare, but access to healthcare that understands this community and their needs," said Katie Perkins, suicide prevention program coordinator for the Utah Pride Center. "Healthcare that can work with them and treat them in a respectful way when they come into their centers and their clinics."
Because conversations about mental health can carry a stigma, another goal of the plan is to encourage talks among family, friends and the greater community.
Perkins says we should "make it the norm to ask your friends, 'Hey, how are you doing?' 'How is your mental health?' Have conversations within family units about mental health on a regular basis."
Arteaga agrees. He says that a simple check in with a friend could prevent the worst from happening.
"Checking in on your friends, saying 'hello' to strangers, will make someone's day to be seen like that and acknowledged," he said.
The plan details steps that organizations or individual community members can take to help prevent suicides within the LGBTQ+ community.
"It's like, what can I do to help?" Perkins said. "I can take some training, I can help with messaging, I can put suicide prevention resources within my office."
In a statement sent to FOX 13, the Utah Department of Human Services said, "this plan is about the state, with community organizations, lawmakers and advocates, putting concerns into actions to specifically prevent suicide among this group with the goal of saving lives."
The Utah Pride Center added that conversations about suicide prevention begin with education.
If you or a loved one has thoughts of suicide, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK. There is also an LGBTQ+ specific prevention lifeline via the TrevorProject at 1-866-488-7386.