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Suicide Task Force: Expand State Safety Net, Lock Up Guns

Nicole Nixon

Suicide is now the leading cause of death for Utahns aged 10 to 17. After learning that 44 teenagers in Utah died by suicide last year, Gov. Gary Herbert formed a special task force last month.

He charged lawmakers, mental health experts, advocates and community leaders with finding some immediate ways to alleviate the problem.

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said Tuesday the group recommends improving crisis response, reducing risk factors and increasing awareness of programs already in place.

“No one wants to end their life, they want to end the pain,” Cox said. “We can’t end the pain if we don’t talk about the pain,”

Cox said as he’s met with groups of schoolchildren, he’s begun to speak with them about suicide prevention. The first few seconds of those conversations are uncomfortable, “and then it gets real, fast,” he said.  

“So, we’re going to talk about the pain more, and we’re going to have these conversations that we think are going to be hard … and it’s going to save lives,” Cox said.

Rep. Steve Eliason has made suicide prevention his legislative priority for several years now. He’s running bills this year based on several of the recommendations — including some to expand statewide crisis lines and school programs.

But Eliason said there’s one thing parents can do at home that could save dozens of lives: separate guns and ammunition and secure firearms with trigger locks or gun safes.

“Every child we’ve lost this year in the state of Utah died by a firearm that, if it had been secured, we may have had a different outcome,” Eliason said.

State leaders acknowledged the task force recommendations are not a complete solution. Gov. Herbert has directed the task force to focus on suicide in general, noting that Native Americans, veterans and the LGBT community have higher risks of suicide.

The youth suicide rate has tripled in Utah since 2007.

If you or someone you know needs help or support:

  • LGBT Youth Crisis & Support Lifeline, The Trevor Project
    Trevor Lifeline: 866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386)
  • SafeUT App Call Lifeline: 800-273-8255 The SafeUT Mobile App is available in the Apple and Google Play stores by searching “P3 Tips” and selecting “SafeUT.”
  • Utah Suicide Hotline, Valley Mental Health
    Crisis Line, 24 hours / 7 days: 801-261-1442
  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255,
  • American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
  • Utah Suicide Prevention Coalition 
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