ST. GEORGE – Southwestern Utah has one of the highest suicide rates in the nation, and the Southwest Behavioral Health Center is working to change that.
“We fit into what is called the ‘suicide belt’ in the United States, which is the Western states running from Montana and Idaho on the north, to Mexico and Arizona on the south,” Southwest Behavioral Health Center Clinical Director Michael Cain told the Washington County Commission Tuesday.
Utah’s suicide rate consistently ranks in the top 10 in the nation, Cain said, and Utah ranks highest in the nation for prevalence of suicidal thoughts, at 6.8 percent, almost twice the national average.
The reasons for Utah’s high rankings remain unclear.
Within Utah itself, the southwest has one of the highest suicide rates, which means, Cain said, southwest Utah is one of the higher areas in the country, near the top, in terms of suicide rate.
“So we are very concerned about that and are very interested in making a change.”
The majority of people who die by suicide are not in treatment, which means, Cain said, the challenge locally is reaching out and finding those people who are considering suicide.
What is being done
One way the center is addressing this urgent need is by partnering with REACH4HOPE to offer the QPR training program: Question, persuade and refer.
The QPR program teaches people what to look for, what questions to ask and how to persuade people to get help.
The goal is to reach and train 50,000 people in Southern Utah’s five-county area within a decade, Cain said. Anyone can take the free two-hour class, but organizers are particularly interested in training those who have contact with many people.
“We’re looking for church leaders, we’re looking for Scout leaders, we’re looking at the schools … ,” Cain said.
The Washington County School District has almost all of its counselors trained as instructors in the QPR program, and the counselors will be able to train every member of the school district staff, he said.
The County Commission expressed support for the program at Tuesday’s meeting. During one specified period, Commissioner Victor Iverson said, 256 people in Utah died on the highways compared to 450-500 who died by suicide.
“When I think about all the effort we go through, to making our roads more safe … I think we can do better as a community,” Iverson said, “and Washington County’s ready to put a few of our employees through it.”
By Friday, the county had arranged for two employees to be trained as instructors in the QPR program.
“We will offer that and try to get all of our employees trained in QPR so they can recognize the signs of suicide and hopefully make a positive difference,” Iverson said Friday.
Iverson represents Washington County on the board of the Five County Association of Governments, which oversees the Southwest Behavioral Health Center.
The Southwest Center serves Washington, Iron, Beaver, Kane and Garfield counties and offers services to Medicaid recipients and others who don’t have the resources to get the care they need.
The Center also offers services not available through traditional medical care, such as case management, transportation, employment services, respite care, mobile crisis outreach team and more.
Cain said the Center is involved in drug courts in four counties and also Washington County’s mental health court.
What to look for
Some of the signs that someone is suicidal include talking about wanting to kill themselves; looking for ways to kill themselves; talking about a specific plan; feeling hopeless, trapped or desperate; feeling like a burden to others; and feeling humiliated.
Other signs include having intense anxiety or panic attacks, losing interest in things, losing the ability to experience pleasure, having insomnia, becoming socially isolated, acting irritable or agitated and showing rage or talking about seeking revenge for being victimized or rejected, whether or not the situations described seem real.
How to help
There are three steps to helping someone you think may be suicidal:
Step 1 – Ask a question
The first step to preventing suicide is to question. Get the person alone or in a private setting and ask them if they are contemplating suicide. Ask questions that acknowledge the person’s distress.
Step 2 – Persuade them to get help
The second step is to persuade the individual to get help. The goal of persuasion is to get the person to say “yes,” that he or she will get help.
Step 3 – Make a referral
The best referrals are when you personally take the person you are worried about to a provider or appropriate professional. If you are making a referral, don’t worry about being disloyal. You are trying to save a life. Don’t worry about breaking a trust or not having enough information to call for help.
Learn suicide prevention
To take the QPR class for suicide prevention as an individual or to arrange classes for your organization, contact:
- Reach4Hope Coalition | Contact Cari Bowler at telephone 435-229-7828 | Facebook | Website
- Southwest Behavioral Health Center | Contact Mona Griffin at telephone 435-634-5638 | Email firstname.lastname@example.org | Facebook | Website
- Southwest Behavioral Health 24-hour emergency phone 435-634-5600
- Southwest Behavioral Health 24-hour emergency toll-free phone 1-800-574-6763
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- REACH4HOPE website
- Southwest Behavioral Health Center website
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website
- National Alliance on Mental Illness Southwest Utah Chapter website
- Officials discover possible suicide victim in Grand Canyon
- 1 suicide, 1 suicide attempt in 1 night at Purgatory Correctional Facility
- Groups hope to spur awareness for suicide prevention; resources
- Veterans Aware: Reducing, eradicating suicide plague on American spirit; public events, 2014
- Study ranks Utah’s efforts between law enforcement, mental health courts among highest in nation, 2013
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