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Utah governor assembles team to tackle surge in teen suicides

UTAH CAPITOL – An “alarming” rise in the number of young people killing themselves in Utah has state leaders taking new steps to try and prevent it.  Governor Gary Herbert announces the creation of a new task force assigned to make those numbers drop.

Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox will co-chair the new task force, along with Representative Steve Eilason.  Cox got emotional as he remembered a dark time in his life after his parents’ divorce when he was being bullied.  He says, “I started to have those dark thoughts about how the world might be a better place if I was not in it.”

Other members of the task force include Gail Miller, Senator Stuart Adams, KSL General Manager Tanya Vea and officials from the Utah State Board of Education, Intermountain Healthcare and the Utah Department of Human Services. Also on the task force is Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  “We welcome the coalition.  We’ve done this before and good results have come out of this in the past.  We’re very hopeful that good results will come out this time, as well,” Rasband says.

Task force officials say Utah’s LGBTQ community is especially vulnerable.  Troy Williams with Equality Utah is also on the task force.  He says teens in that community are already four times more likely to have suicidal thoughts than their straight counterparts.  “They’re eight times more likely to experience suicide ideation or engage in high-risk behavior if they come from unaccepting homes or if they’re kicked out of their homes,” Williams says.

Governor Gary Herbert has given the task force a deadline of February 15th to submit ideas for community-based programs designed to prevent youth suicide.  “We’ll be looking for programs.  We’re looking for tools.  We’ll be looking for methods to prevent teen suicides in Utah,” he says.

(Photo Credit: Laura Seitz, Deseret News)