According to the Utah Department of Health, 44 youths between the ages of 10 and 17 committed suicide in 2017.
On Wednesday, Governor Gary Herbert announced the creation of a new task force to work toward teen suicide prevention. The group is tasked with finding and building support for initiatives that promote teen wellbeing and suicide prevention.
The new team will be led by Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox and Rep. Steven Eliason. Eliason said the diverse, 14-member group is already working well together.
“I sense a real desire by all points of view to work together on this issue,” he said. “I mean, how can you not?”
The task force includes A. Marc Harrison, CEO and president of Intermountain Healthcare, Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Troy Williams, executive director of LGBT rights group Equality Utah.
Herbert set Feb. 15 as the deadline for the task force to provide lawmakers with recommendations to be considered during Utah’s upcoming legislative session.
Eliason encourages parents to help ensure their children’s safety with data-supported measures. The first is properly securing any firearms in their homes with a cable lock or a safe.
“That’s critical, because just over half of the 44 children that died by suicide last year in Utah died by a firearm,” Eliason said. “And almost always, that firearm belonged to their parents.”
Second, he urges parents to try to stay close with their children through their adolescent years.
“Eating dinner with them, spending 10 or 15 minutes a day with them in their world, doing what they want,” he said. “Especially as they move on through high school, that’s especially critical. Those bonding relationships are very protective from a suicide prevention perspective.”
You can reach the 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). For Utah suicide prevention hotlines, click here. To learn how to recognize if someone is in crisis and how you can help, click here.