Parents encouraged to talk to children about suicide prevention

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SALT LAKE CITY — People across the state are talking about suicide as a result of the recent death of the teenager from Bennion Junior High School.

Crisis counselors and organizations that provide suicide support say it's important to develop a productive, community dialogue and to make sure that everyone knows there are many places parents can turn for help.

A National Suicide Prevention Strategy just came out recently. There are great resources online, and a crisis counselor is always just a phone call away.

Inside the University Neuropsychiatric Institute, the crisis line rings about 100 times a day. The institute receives roughly 3,000 calls a month from someone in the community contemplating suicide or worried about a loved one.

UNI has run the crisis line with the county and Optum Health for about a year, and Crisis Intervention Specialist, Don Fennimore, has directed a mobile crisis team for nine months.

"The biggest piece is just getting this out in the open with the family," Fennimore said.

In the home, the crisis team will assess the situation, determine just how dangerous it really is and try to develop a safety plan with counseling resources to deal with it. Fennimore says that while people are still talking about Bennion student incident, parents might want to check in with their children.

"You could even turn to your kid and say, 'Boy, I hope if you're ever in trouble, or having any thoughts of that, I'd hope you'd talk to me,'" he said.

He also reminds parents that social media can fan the flames of teenage depression very quickly.

Resources for Suicide Prevention:
  • Local Suicide Hotline: 801-587-3000
  • National Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

"When you have something as explosive as Facebook out there, to print something or have it online, whether it's true or not, can push kids over the edge," Fennimore said.

Fennimore and other specialists agree it's critical to have a community conversation because the impact is felt far beyond one family. He talked about the need to collectively break down isolation that individuals may feel, and to work through the issues together with education.

"When people have suicidal tendencies, it's something that's been brewing for weeks and months," he said. "It's not something that just happened at the drop of a hat."

Each county in Utah has a crisis hotline and prevention coordinators that will work with individuals at risk for suicide.


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Jed Boal


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