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Suicide Rates Are Up Across The Country, Higher In Utah

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

As two celebrities died in apparent suicides this week, a new federal report shows suicide rates have risen dramatically across the country over the past two decades. Utah continues to have one of the nation's highest rates for such deaths.

At just over 25 suicide deaths for every 100,000 people, Utah has the fifth-highest suicide rate in the country. The new report from the Centers for Disease Control shows that suicides in Utah have risen more than 46 percent since 1999.

In an effort to curb the trend, the state created a suicide prevention task force earlier this year. In 2017 the medical examiner’s office hired Michael Staley, a suicide prevention research coordinator, to find out why Utah has such high rates of suicide.

Staley said although he wasn’t surprised by the numbers in the new CDC report, suicide death rates appear to have held steady in most recent years.

“While the rates aren’t going down, and that’s certainly not good, they aren’t increasing at the same rate that they were,” he said. “And that, by and large, gives me hope.”

Among the report’s findings was that nearly half of people who took their own lives used a gun. Staley said in Utah, where there is a high rate of gun ownership, suicide deaths mirror national trends. He urges gun owners to lock up their weapons and store the ammunition separately.

“By putting distance between someone who is actively suicidal and a very lethal weapon, we know that the chances of them surviving increase,” he said.

Utah lawmakers will consider a number of gun safety measures next year, including red flag and safe storage laws. Staley said those could help lower Utah’s high suicide rate.

“While suicide is nobody’s fault, it’s everybody’s problem, and we all have a role to play in preventing suicide,” Staley said.

With the high-profile suicides of fashion designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain in the news this week, Staley says it’s important to know where to find help.

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 
Nicole Nixon holds a Communication degree from the University of Utah. She has worked on and off in the KUER Newsroom since 2013, when she first joined KUER as an intern. Nicole is a Utah native. Besides public radio, she is also passionate about beautiful landscapes and breakfast burritos.
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