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New Suicide Prevention Efforts Targeted At Latino Community In West Valley City

A photo of a mural in West Valley City.
Jon Reed
A newly-created mural on Constitution Blvd. in West Valley City is part of a larger effort to reduce stigma and provide resources around mental health care and suicide prevention for Latinos.

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Utah leaders are launching a new campaign on suicide prevention for the Latino community, which faces higher rates of suicide and depression than their white counterparts.

Increasing awareness around mental health care and suicide prevention has been a major focus for state leaders in recent years, as Utah has consistently had one of the highest rates of suicide in the country.

In 2018, the state had the sixth-highest age-adjusted suicide rate in the U.S., according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics. Suicide was also the leading cause of death for Utahns aged 10 to 24 in 2019.

The campaign, part of the multi-year, statewide project Live On, is geared specifically towards Latinos in West Valley City. They make up about third of the city’s population and roughly 14% of the state’s.

There will be a dedicated website in Spanish featuring mental health resources and personal stories of survival and hope, along with billboards and spots on Spanish radio stations.

Latinos in Utah are almost three times more likely than their white counterparts to die by suicide, said Javier Alegre, executive director of Latino Behavioral Health Services. That could be exacerbated by the pandemic, which he said has enhanced levels of depression and anxiety.

He said the messaging around the importance of mental health care and suicide prevention often don’t take cultural differences into account.

“We are putting out the messages in our language,” Alegre said. “Messages of individuals that look like us, that speak like us and have shared experiences. That's how you reach them.”

He said the goal is to not just to reduce stigma, but to give people the tools to help anyone that may be struggling with their mental health.

Speaking in both English and Spanish at a press conference announcing the campaign, West Valley Mayor Ron Bigelow said mental health and suicide have been taboo subjects for generations, contributing to many preventable deaths in the state. He said the new campaign is an important step towards reaching more people and spreading a message of inclusion, but there will be more to come.

“Today, we focus on West Valley,” Bigelow said. “But there are people, Spanish speaking and of many other cultures across our state, that we must and will reach out to. Every life is important. Every person is critical to our society.”

If you or someone you know needs help, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Utah Crisis Line at 801-587-3000 or the Crisis Text Line by texting 741741.

Jon reports on quality of life issues, education and the economy
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