ST. GEORGE — The American Foundation of Suicide Prevention in Southern Utah will be having an “Out of the Darkness Walk” fundraising event Oct. 19 to inform the community about the foundation and its efforts to raise awareness and promote education and suicide prevention efforts.
Suicide is quickly becoming the leading cause of death for youth ages 10-24, according to reports from the Utah Department of Health, and it is rapidly rising within the elderly community.
“The point of being involved is to help other families not have to go through this,” Tina Hender said.
Hender is a volunteer for both the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention and the National Alliance on Mental Illness, familiarly known as NAMI. She is intimately involved in the concern as she lost her brother 31 years ago and her son 22 months ago to suicide. Hender said the community needs to have open dialogue regarding mental illness and to remove stigmas and shame attached to it.
Mental illness and depression are comparable to diabetes and any other illness which receives attention and treatment, Hender said, “it’s not fixable, but it’s treatable.”
“The more I can help others raise their education and awareness regarding suicide,” Hender said, “the more lives we can possibly save in the future.”
The “Out of the Darkness Walk” is a 3-5 mile walk which is taking place in hundreds of communities across the country, with the proceeds benefiting the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention. In Southern Utah, its fundraising goal, through participation in the walk and donations is $15,000, according to its website.
Participation in the walk and donations benefit the foundation’s research and education programs to prevent suicide and save lives, increase national awareness about depression and suicide, and provide support for survivors of suicide loss; and, to make suicide prevention a national priority.
A task force called “Hope for Tomorrow,” developed by NAMI Utah, is a mental health education program which brings together the combined efforts and insights of mental health professionals, educators, and other experts to help parents, teachers, students and communities understand mental illness as it affects children and teens. It does this through programs designed to address mood disorders, eating disorders, substance use, and other issues children and adolescents face.
Currently there are two “Hope for Tomorrow” task forces, in Salt Lake City and Provo, and the group is working on gaining one in Southern Utah — Southern Utah has the second highest suicide rate in Utah, according to some studies discussed below.
NAMI Utah Southwest serves Washington County, with education and support groups, in St. George. See contacts, schedule and offerings here.
What the data shows
According to information provided by Tom Hudachko, public information officer for the Utah Department of Health, suicide is a large issue within the United States, and it is crucial that Utah pays attention to these facts.
Utah’s indicator-based information system for public health states that “from 2007 to 2011, Utah’s age-adjusted suicide rate was 17.1 per 100,000 persons. This is an average of 428 suicides per year. Utah has one of the highest age-adjusted suicide rates in the U.S. It is the leading cause of death for Utahns ages 1 to 44 years old in 2011.”
However, these numbers only reflect completed suicides. Factor in hospitalization or other emergency room services from suicide attempts and the most recent data shows that 2,579 Utahns were seen in emergency departments in 2010, and 1,431 Utahns were hospitalized for self-inflicted injuries in 2011.
A total of 7.2 percent of Utah high school students attempted suicide one or more times and 3.1 percent of these students suffered an injury, poisoning, or an overdose that had to be treated by a doctor or nurse, according to the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
Not all people act upon suicidal thoughts. According to data collected from a 2005-2007 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance, 4.6 percent of Utahns 18 years and older reported thoughts of hurting themselves or that they would be better off dead.
According to this same surveillance, it’s not just teens: Men and women, ages 85 and older, had the highest prevalence at 8.0 percent and 12.4 percent, followed by younger men and women, ages 18-24, at 7.1 percent and 9.1 percent.
The chart inset above suggests suicide rates in Utah by region. It places the highest number of suicides in South Salt Lake, with the Southwest at a close second.
That said, caution in interpreting the data is advised. Per the state’s website for Indicator-based Information System for Public Health:
… the estimate has a relative standard error greater than 30% and does not meet UDOH standards for reliability. For more information, please go to (the state health department’s report of guidelines for data result suppression). Only three years of data (2009-2011) for West Jordan West/Copperton, West Jordan Northeast, and West Jordan Southeast. Data for West Jordan North and West Jordan/Copperton are from 2007-2008. All other rates are based on five years of data 2007-2011. … .
The information is compiled from information gathered by the Utah Death Certificate Database, Office of Vital Records and Statistics and the Utah Department of Health. The population estimates were produced by staff in the Utah Department of Health Center for Health Data. Linear interpolation of U.S. Census Bureau and ESRI ZIP Code data provided annual population estimates for ZIP Code areas by sex and age groups in the years 2007 to 2011.
Risk factors identified by the Utah Health Department outline previous suicide attempts, history of depression or other mental illness, alcohol or drug abuse, family history of suicide or violence, physical illness and local epidemics of suicide.
What / Website: Out of the Darkness Walk St. George (Washington)
When: October 19, 9 a.m. check-in and in-person registration; walk from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Where: Highland Park – 1250 North Highland Parkway, Washington
How: Online registration closes at noon Friday before the walk, Oct. 18. However, anyone may participate and register in person at the walk. Donate online through midnight on December 31
Contact: Taryn Aiken / Telephone 801-836-0959 / Email firstname.lastname@example.org
- NAMI Utah Southwest in St. George
- Hope for Tomorrow program of NAMIut.org / Contact: Mindy Clark of NAMI Utah- Telephone 801-323-9900 or the NAMI Utah Southwest office.
- Utah Health Department Suicide facts
- Data and Confidence Limits for Suicide by Sex and Year, Utah and U.S., 1999-2011
- Data and Confidence Limits for Suicide by Age Group and Sex, Utah, 2007-2011
- Suicide Data and Fact sheets
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