SALT LAKE CITY – A series of new reports from the Utah Department of Health provide a startling reminder of the tragic loss too many Utah families experience with suicide. In 2010, 456 Utahns took their own lives, up from 357 in 2006. Preliminary data suggest the number of suicides will exceed 500 for 2011.
“Suicide is one of those things that can be uncomfortable to talk about,” said Jenny Johnson with the UDOH Violence and Injury Prevention Program. “But the data show this is an alarming problem in our state that we can’t ignore any longer.” Johnson said that many Utahns would be surprised to learn how many people close to them have dealt with the issue.
The data point to age-specific circumstances and stressors surrounding risk for suicide deaths in Utah. For example, youth who completed suicide were more likely to have school and other relationship problems, while young adults were more likely to have intimate partner problems.
Among adults, the data show many suffered from a diagnosed mental illness. Adult men in particular face a myriad of other risk factors, including alcohol and substance abuse and job or financial problems. Older adults were more likely to suffer from physical health problems that may have prompted the suicide.
Since 2006, an average of 402 Utahns died from suicide and 4,152 more were hospitalized or treated in an emergency department due to injuries from a suicide attempt each year. The data show that men ages 25-64 account for more than half (53.2 percent) of all suicide deaths in Utah, followed by women ages 25-64 (16.5 percent), young adults ages 18-24 (13.9 percent), older adults ages 65+ (9.5 percent), and youth ages 10-17 (3.7 percent). While males had higher rates of suicide death than females, more females attempt suicide than males.
To combat the problem, agencies from across the state have formed the Suicide Prevention Coalition. The Coalition has developed a plan to decrease the number of suicides and suicide attempts in Utah and will launch a public education and awareness campaign later this year. Among other efforts, the campaign will address the stigma about seeking help for suicidal thoughts and feelings.
The Coalition is chaired by the UDOH and Utah Department of Human Services (DHS), with representation from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Army and Air National Guards, Veterans Affairs, University of Utah, Utah State Office of Education, Utah Pride Center, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Primary Children’s Medical Center, local police departments, public and private mental health providers, family survivors, and advocate groups.
“The goal is for all Utahns to recognize that treatment and intervention work. Suicide is a public health problem and is preventable,” said Amy Buehler with the DHS Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health. “If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts or talking about suicide, know that help is available. Don’t give up. You are not alone.”
All suicidal thoughts, behaviors, and attempts should be taken seriously. Get help 24/7 by calling the Statewide CrisisLine at 801-587-3000 or the National Suicide Prevention LifeLine at 1-800-273-TALK. Help is also available online at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org. Trained consultants will provide free and confidential crisis counseling to anyone in need.
To download the suicide data reports visit the Utah’s Violence and Injury Prevention Program website.