ST. GEORGE – Suicide is a tragedy that rips at the fabric of families and community and impacts countless lives, even more heartbreaking during the holidays. It is preventable.
Whether you’re concerned for a loved one, looking to raise awareness or feeling down yourself, reach out to the resources in Southern Utah offering gifts of hope and help.
According to a January 2013 report from the Southwest Utah Public Health Department, Utah has one of the highest suicide rates in the nation (16.8 per 100,000 persons, as compared to the U.S. average of 11.4). The local numbers are even higher, 20.8.
Southern Utah suicides have risen incrementally each year, nearly doubling from 2007 to 2011.
“There’s a lot of theories about why there are so many suicides in the area, but the truth is that there’s no real answer,” said Michael Cain, clinical director of the Southwest Behavioral Health Center.
If you or someone you know is in danger because of suicidal thoughts or actions, call 911 immediately. Suicide is an emergency that requires help by trained medical professionals and should always be treated seriously.
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; telephone 800-574-6763 or 435-634-5600.
Other resources include Suicide.org, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the American Association of Suicidology. All provide comprehensive information and help on the issue of suicide, from prevention to treatment to coping with loss.
“The most important thing is to know you’re not alone,” said Paula Larsen, founder of the Survivors of Suicide (SOS) Loss support group in St. George. “There is someone waiting to help you right now. Reach out.”
Focusing on prevention basics, QPR teaches people to recognize the warning signs of suicide and act to avoid a possible tragedy in a clear, concise 2.5-hour class. Mental Health First Aid is an interactive eight-hour course dealing with mental illness and substance abuse problems, and is recommended for those who work or volunteer in fields where one might encounter an emotionally vulnerable individual. These programs are taught and employed by police departments, school districts, faith groups, hospitals and clinics across the country. Neither are intended to replace the professional help a suicidal person needs, but can save a life in a time of crisis.
Both courses will be offered throughout the coming year in St. George and Cedar City. For a schedule, prices and more information, see the flyers for QPR, Adult Mental Health First Aid and Youth Mental Health First Aid or contact Jennifer Gray at 435-634-5603 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
REACH4HOPE is a coalition that works with SBHC, Dixie Regional Medical Center, Dixie State University, therapists, counselors, local police departments and community members to reduce suicide through education, awareness and cooperation.
“Only by working together can we address the problem of suicide in our community,” president Lynn Bjorkman said. “The impacts of suicide are boundless, but so can the positive effects be if we understand it.”
Approximately 36,000 Americans take their own lives each year, more than the number of people killed in traffic accidents. Suicide knows no boundaries and does not discriminate based on age, gender, race or background. From mental illness and substance abuse to violence and social pressure, many factors overwhelm an individual’s ability to cope emotionally and make them feel like there’s no way out.
But there’s always another option, and help is a just a step away.
No matter your position in the fight to prevent suicide, having aid available and someone who cares makes all the difference. Know you’re not alone.
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