A Painful Problem

Utah sits proudly atop several lists—from Best Quality of Life to the Best State for Business state for business. Unfortunately, we qualify for another list, which we can no longer tolerate. Utah has the seventh highest suicide rate overall and the fifth highest suicide rate for ages 10-17! Between 15-24 old Utahns, suicide is the second leading cause of death.

Last year over 500 Utahns of all ages took their own lives.  Women attempt suicide more often than men, however, more males die as a result of suicide as they typically choose more lethal means such as guns.

Rep. Steve Eliason and others have championed legislation during the last two legislative channeling resources and attention to this all too avoidable tragedy. He is working on parental education and providing free trigger locks.  Rep. Eliason has found no group, including gun advocates, who oppose such measures.

Tragically, when a young person takes his or her life with a firearm, 80% of the time they use their parent’s own gun.  If gun owners properly secured their firearms, the rate of youth suicide would very likely fall dramatically. Youth suicide is often impulsive, frequently after an intense emotional event like a relationship breakup or failing a big test.  If young people can get through their crisis without having access to a lethal weapon, their chances of living are greatly enhanced. If the guns in Adam Lanza’s home had been properly secured, perhaps his blood-chilling shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary may have been avoided.

Suicide should never be the answer!  Help is available to anyone considering suicide.  They can start by talking to a trusted friend or advisor—a family member, friend, doctor, mental-health professional,or spiritual/ religious leader OR by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

People care, help is available, treatment works, and people can and do get better. There is an unfortunate myth that talking about suicide increases the risk of it happening. But bringing the topic into the open allows a potential victim to disclose his troubles to a sympathetic ear. Shame about being treated as strange or sick prevents most people from opening up. We must give people, young and old, the message that asking for help is not a weakness.

We all play a role in preventing suicide.  We are significantly increasing efforts at both the state and local levels to prevent suicide.  To do so we must come together as families and communities to find the answers.

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide please call1-800-273-TALK (8255) to speak with a crisis worker. There is HOPE.

For more information about the State suicide prevention plan or to get involved you can go to http://www.dsamh.utah.gov/docs/utah-suicide%20-prevention-plan.pdf or contact the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health at801-538-3939.   September 10th is the World Suicide Prevention Day which promotes understanding and effective prevention activities internationally.

[My thanks to Rep. Steve Eliason who co-wrote this blog as well as for his great work on this painful topic. I also acknowledge Doug Thomas of the Utah Department of Human Services and his interdisciplinary working group who provided much of the information contained in this piece.]