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Thanks to youth, there’s less stigma when seeking suicide prevention help

Sep 9, 2021, 5:00 AM
suicide prevention Utah...
Artist Roger Whiting, of Community Arts of Utah, left, and project assistant Mati Simonds stand near their mosaic mural on 2700 West between 3500 South and 3100 South in West Valley City on Tuesday, March 16, 2021. Earlier, Gov. Spencer Cox and West Valley Mayor Ron Bigelow held a bilingual press event at West Valley City Hall to unveil the mural, dedicated to those who have taken their own livesPhoto credit: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

There are many ways for a person at risk of suicide to get help, but one deterrent can be the stigma that seems to go with asking for that help. Experts in the field of suicide prevention, though, are saying that’s less of an obstacle than it used to be, especially for younger Utahns.

For young people especially, easing the burden of coming back to school and going forward is an important part of suicide prevention.

McKinley Withers, who oversees prevention programs in the Jordan School District, said Hope Squads and other peer groups in the schools are showing the way.

“So they’ll do Hope Walks and Hope Week just to encourage that kind of behavior and make it OK that someone gets help,” Withers told KSL Newsradio.

Generational views on prevention 

Withers said there’s also a generational change in the way young people see mental health care.

“I believe that kids these days are much better at getting help than those of previous years,” he said.

There’s also a growing acceptance among employers and health insurance companies of mental health care and crisis intervention.

And that’s a hopeful trend for Michael Staley, who tracks suicides and suicide attempts for the state medical examiner’s office.

“We have a long way to go, again, but I think we’re slowly chipping away at that stigma that’s kept suicide behind closed doors and in the shadows for so many years,” Staley told KSL Newsradio. 

Positive stories about suicide prevention in Utah

Utah has the 5th highest rate of suicide in the nation, similar to other Western states. State Representative Steve Eliason said, while the concern about suicide is appropriate, there are positive stories to tell.

“If I had one wish, in terms of the media, it would be to share more stories of hope and recovery. A lot of times, we just hear about some of the more difficult and tragic situations.”


Suicide prevention resources

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Crisis Hotlines

  • Utah County Crisis Line: 801-691-5433
  • Salt Lake County/UNI Crisis Line: 801-587-3000
  • Wasatch Mental Health Crisis Line: 801-373-7393
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Trevor Project Hotline for LGBTQ teens: 1-866-488-7386

Online resources

Warning signs of suicide

  • Talking about wanting to die
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
  • Thoughts or comments about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious, agitated or recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings

The more of these signs a person shows, the greater the risk. Warning signs are associated with suicide but may not be what causes suicide.

What to do if you see warning signs of suicide

  • Do not leave the person alone
  • Remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt
  • Call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional

Information from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. 

 

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Thanks to youth, there’s less stigma when seeking suicide prevention help