ST. GEORGE – A bill sponsored by Utah Republicans Sen. Orrin Hatch and Rep. Chris Stewart aimed at creating a national three-digit suicide prevention hotline passed the Senate Wednesday. The bill passed the House last week and is now headed to President Donald Trump for signing.
Officially called the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act, the Senate unanimously passed the bill, which was an amended version of one passed – also unanimously – by the Senate in November.
“With this topic, my heart is both heavy and hopeful—heavy because suicide has already taken so many lives; hopeful because this legislation can turn the tide in the campaign against this epidemic,” Hatch said in a statement Wednesday.
“This bipartisan proposal is a lifeline for those experiencing suicidal thoughts. With this bill, we can prevent countless tragedies and help thousands of men and women get the help they so desperately need.”
Hatch’s Office said the senator had engaged in “intense lobbying” for the amended legislation.
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— Senator Hatch Office (@senorrinhatch) August 1, 2018
The improved suicide hotline will connect callers directly to trained call center crisis workers, according Hatch’s office. Having a three-digit hotline will make it easier for those in crisis – or those who know someone in crisis – to more easily remember the number to call.
While visiting St. George earlier this week, Stewart said he’s heard from dozens of Utah families who told him they didn’t know where to go for help when they needed it.
“If you’re able to say to them, ‘It’s 611,’ everyone can remember that and it can really make a difference,” Stewart said. “If you’re contemplating suicide or you come upon someone who is, you can’t remember 1-800-whatever, but you can remember 611.”
Both Hatch and Stewart have previously mentioned Utah’s own “suicide epidemic.” Utah is ranked fifth in the nation for suicides. In January, Gov. Gary Herbert created a task force to address the increasing suicide rates. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also recently launched a website addressing suicide and prevention.
The National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act will consolidate various services that can aid some contemplating suicide into one point of access, Stewart said previously. The bill also calls for a study into the effectiveness of the current National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Veterans Crisis Line and seeks recommendations for improvements.
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline Improvement Act:
Next stop, the President’s desk!
— Rep. Chris Stewart (@RepChrisStewart) August 2, 2018
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; call 800-574-6763 or435-634-5600.
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.
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