ST. GEORGE — Recent Dixie State University graduate Scott Williamson has personally known seven people who committed suicide, and at a public information meeting held Monday by the DSU National Alliance on Mental Illness club, he went so far as saying he has previously considered suicide himself many times.
He’s not alone. Utah ranks seventh in the nation for suicide deaths, and one in 15 Utah adults have had serious thoughts about committing suicide, according to the Utah Department of Health.
Williamson and other members of the DSU NAMI club gathered Monday at the Browning Building at Dixie State to teach members of the public suicide prevention steps.
Teresa Willie, a licensed prevention specialist with the Southwest Behavioral Health Center, was the keynote speaker and gave the audience tips on how to recognize the signs of suicidal thoughts in others.
“Most suicidal people don’t want to die,” Willie said. “They just want the pain to go away. They just want someone to listen to them.”
Southwest Behavioral Health Center has a goal to get at least 25 percent of Washington County’s population “QPR certified.” Willie said QPR stands for the three steps anybody can learn to help prevent suicide in others: question, persuade and refer.
“If we can teach people about how to ask the question and how to access the resources and persuade friends to get help, we know we can save lives,” Willie said. “And if we can teach about reducing access to lethal means, we know we can save lives.”
The best thing people can do when they encounter someone who may be considering suicide is to offer support, stay calm, listen without judgement and access professional treatment if necessary, Willie said.
While this was the first time Willie presented a suicide prevention training at Dixie State, she holds many other events in the community through the Southwest Behavioral Health Center, Washington County School District and Intermountain Healthcare to train people on suicide prevention.
“Suicide rates in the community are skyrocketing, and that is something I am very concerned about,” Willie said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each suicide costs an average of $1 million in medical and work-loss costs.
For Williamson, it’s more than a matter of dollars and cents; the real cost of a suicide is the negative affects on family members and friends of those who kill themselves, he said.
“Seeing what it did to the families of those (who committed suicide) is what prevented me from following through with it,” Williamson said. “Knowing that even though I’m hurting, if I commit suicide, it can hurt others too.”
Talking with others about his mental health struggles and suicide attempts is the best thing that helps Williamson make it through each day, he said.
“You don’t even have to talk to someone about your feelings,” Williamson said. “It can be about anything random. But just talking with someone else can help a lot.”
For those struggling with suicidal thoughts, nationwide suicide hotlines, 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) and 1-800-273-TALK (8255), have counselors available 24/7. The Southwest Behavioral Health Center also offers help for Southern Utah residents at 800-574-6763 or 435-634-5600.
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