While public health agencies, schools and other groups are working to address Utah’s rising suicide rates, judging the effectiveness of those efforts will require better data collection.
That’s among the findings of a new study from Utah Foundation, Getting to Tomorrow: Addressing Suicide in Utah and the Mountain States.
All but one of the Mountain States were in the top 10 nationally for suicide rates in 2016. Utah ranked number five. The Utah Foundation study looks at various factors that may play into the higher suicide rates at both Mountain States and county levels. It also looks at various prevention and intervention programs, both in Utah and other states.
Key findings of the report include:
Since the early 2000s, suicide rates have been on the rise in Utah, in the Mountain States and nationally.
Suicide rates are particularly high in Utah and the Mountain States.
Various factors may relate to the higher suicide rates found in the Mountain States. Among them, high average elevation stands out as consistent among states with high suicide rates.
Within the state, the highest suicide rates appear to cluster in five contiguous counties.
The Utah counties with the highest suicide rates also tend to have high opioid prescription rates.
Suicide deaths are a predominantly male phenomenon.
Suicide rates have increased significantly in every age group since the turn of the millennium, with more pronounced increases during the past decade.
In Utah, the highest suicide rates by far are among working age adults.
Both public schools and higher education institutions have heightened opportunities to promote mental health, offer suicide prevention training and provide intervention. However, efforts vary greatly among institutions.
The State of Utah has been attempting to address suicide through numerous pieces of legislation over the past five years. At the federal level, Utah Congressmembers are working to improve the national suicide prevention hotline.
Addressing suicide will require action on a broad range of fronts.
To craft successful suicide prevention efforts over the long term, decision makers must invest in data collection and research to measure outcomes, where possible.
Ultimately, intervention requires individualized care and thus the promotion of access to highly trained mental health professionals.
“Addressing suicide requires an all-hands-on-deck effort to improve mental health, from good parenting all the way to ensuring access to highly trained mental health professionals for those who need it,” Utah Foundation President Peter Reichard said. “Simultaneously, it’s important to support efforts to better understand suicide and monitor the outcomes of prevention and intervention programs.”
The research report Getting to Tomorrow: Addressing Suicide in Utah and the Mountain States is available on the Utah Foundation website at www.utahfoundation.org.
Utah Foundation is a non-partisan public policy research group. Founded in 1945, its mission is to promote a thriving economy, a well-prepared workforce and a high quality of life for Utahns by performing thorough, well-supported research that helps policymakers, business and community leaders, and citizens better understand complex issues and providing practical, well-reasoned recommendations for policy change.