Republican Speaker of the House Brad Wilson named reducing Utah’s suicide rate as one of his top priorities for the year in his opening session remarks earlier this week. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, but the eighth in Utah.
One way local health departments are combating the issue is by utilizing the QPR Institutes’ ‘Question, Persuade, Refer’ trainings, according to Charity Jenson, a health educator with the Bear River Health Department.
“Its whole goal is to train suicide gatekeepers in order to help people know how to recognize someone who's having suicidal thoughts," she said, "and be able to help them in a time of suicidal crisis.”
Jenson said as awareness of mental health issues increases, there’s a lot of research and resources going toward the public health problem. Utah’s Democratic congressman, Representative Benjamin McAdams, is one lawmaker working to stem the issue. His bipartisan bill to increase research on preventing suicide passed in the United States’ House on Monday.
But Jenson said talking about suicide is something many find difficult in Utah, especially when it hits close to home.
“Our goal is to be able to have it be able to talk more freely about suicide," Jenson said, "but we also want to make sure we're that we're getting a good balance right between having it become such a casual topic of conversation, that people aren't affected by the seriousness of the issue— but still making sure we're talking about it more than we are.”
The national age-adjusted suicide rate was 14.2 per 100,000 individuals in 2018, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Utah was above that average at 22.2 per 100,000.
Help for those struggling with depression, hopelessness and suicidal thoughts is available at the Utah Suicide Prevention Coalition hotline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or via chat at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.