SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) - Senator Orrin Hatch held a roundtable discussion Friday at East High School to discuss the growing numbers of teen suicide in Utah. Suicide is now the leading cause of death among 10 to 17 year olds in our state.
The Senator's roundtable was made up of lawmakers, health care providers, educators and parents and every one of them had been touched, in some way, by suicide. That's why they're working together to come up with best practices on how to be proactive in preventing teen suicide.
The statistics are startling; every day in Utah two youths are treated for suicide attempts.
"Yeah I am a mom who lost a daughter to suicide," said Laura Warburton. Warburton lost her daughter to suicide in 2014, and she's not alone.
The rate of youth suicide in utah has tripled since 2007. From 3 youths per 100,000 people to 8.5 per 100,000, making Utah youth suicide rates twice as high as the national average.
Senator Orrin Hatch said, "I can't stress enough that there is no shame in seeking help. For too long stigma has cast a wide shadow on our communities."
Eliminating stigmas has been the mission of the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI). NAMI Utah's Interim Executive Director said, "It's okay to have problems. We all experience mental health conditions. Let's not be ashamed, let's not be afraid, let's get help and that there's hope."
Giving kids hope and getting them the help they need before they're in crisis has been a big priority at Syracuse High School. Principal Wendy Nelson said, "We have had the loss of several students to suicide as well as to some tragic accidents."
Since then they've created the Hope Squad, a group of students meant to be the first line of defense to be the eyes and ears for adults in finding students who need help. The school has also brought in therapists to be there for students in need. "We've been very fortunate in the last few years to have Davis Behavioral Health bring a therapist and a family coordinator into school every week, we actually have a waiting list," said Nelson.
For those students who don't have counselors readily available there's a new app recently launched called SafeUtah where students can log on and connect with counselors 24 hours a day.
"We know that if they get help, if they talk to someone they live. It's that simple," said Sen. Daniel Thatcher.
But what about those students who don't have a smart phone, or never downloaded the app? The lawmakers on the panel said they're working on something much more accessible, a nationwide 3 digit phone number someone can call in a crisis - essentially a 911 for mental and behavioral health issues.
For more information on the help that's available log on to: http://www.health.utah.gov/vipp/teens/youth-suicide/
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