Suicide is a tough subject to talk about. While it would be more comfortable to just ignore this issue, it’s something we really need to address. And people affected by depression and suicidal thoughts need to feel like they have someone who will be there for them.
These numbers from the Utah Department of Health are alarming: “An average of 557 Utahns die from suicide and 4,543 Utahns attempt suicide each year. Youth ages 10 to 17 comprise 13.0% of the Utah population, 5.1% of all suicides, and 22.7% of all suicide attempts.”
The rate of suicide for youth ages 10-17 in Utah has been higher than the national average every year going back to at least 1999. Some years it has been more than double the national average.
We need to be more open about mental health. We need to remove the stigma so our kids feel like they can come to us for help and so anyone dealing with mental health issues can get professional help.
One way Utah has addressed this issue is with the SafeUT app. This app “provides real-time crisis intervention to youth through texting and a confidential tip program.” This gives anyone dealing with mental health crises, suicidal thoughts, or similar issues a place to go when they have nowhere else to go. The app is free and confidential and connects users with crisis counselors. They can chat with a counselor right in the app or call and speak with one on the phone. We should all encourage the people we love to download this app so it’s there when they need it.
Senator Orrin Hatch and Congressman Chris Stewart sponsored the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act, which recently passed the House and Senate. This bill will evaluate the effectiveness of the Hotline and also look at the feasibility of a 3-digit code similar to what we have for 911.
Utah is taking a lead on this issue and we must continue to search for solutions. Suicide is the leading cause of death among youth age 10-17 and it’s going to take all of us engaging in this issue in order to save these kids.
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