Bills focusing on suicide prevention get gov's signature

Bills focusing on suicide prevention get gov's signature

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SALT LAKE CITY — Five bills related to the problem of suicide in Utah were ceremoniously signed into law Monday by Gov. Gary Herbert as state legislators, government administrators and affected parents looked on.

The measures' supporters stood behind Herbert as he penned his signature in the Gold Room of the Utah State Capitol.

"This is a step forward in a right direction. It's not all, but it is something that needs to be done," Herbert told reporters afterward.

The new laws are designed to find solutions to Utah's suicide rate, which according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is 5th highest in the United States when adjusted for age.

One measure will update suicide prevention training requirements for mental health professionals, while another ensures parents are notified when their child is involved in bullying or invokes suicidal threats at school.

Utah's Office of Education will add to its responsibilities in suicide prevention as a result of the new legislation, and the University of Utah Neuropsychiatric Institute (UNI) hotline will be extended statewide and include texting. November will also be recognized as "Homeless and Runaway Youth Awareness Month" throughout Utah.

Don't say 'hi, how are you' when you don't really care. Start asking people how they're doing, and mean it.

–Daniel Thatcher, bill co-sponsor

"Last year was the first year we saw suicide numbers decline overall," Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, who sponsored legislation broadening the responsibilities of the state's suicide prevention coordinator, told those gathered for the signing. "(But) if one of your loved ones are one of those current numbers, those numbers are far too high and far too tragic."

Republican Daniel Thatcher sponsored the bill, along with Eliason, that would upgrade UNI hotline services and he also spoke at the signing. He said preventing suicide will require personal awareness of the issue, even with the support of state laws.

"The next time you ask somebody, 'how are you,' don’t use it as a greeting. Don’t say 'hi, how are you' when you don’t really care," Thatcher said. "Start asking people how they’re doing, and mean it."

Suicide Prevention
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, KSL encourages you to call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.

Crisis Hotlines

  • Utah County Crisis Line: 801-226- 4433
  • Salt Lake County/UNI Crisis Line: 801-587-3000
  • Wasatch Mental Health Crisis Line: 801-373- 7393
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK
  • Trevor Project Hotline for LGBTQ teens: 1- 866-488-7386

Online resources

Herbert agreed that an attitude shift is necessary statewide to combat the pervasive assumption that those with mental health problems have something to be embarrassed about.

"Nobody’s ashamed if they’ve got a broken arm, if they need to have their appendix removed — they go to a doctor nobody thinks another thing about it," Herbert said. "Somehow we have some shame attached to (saying) 'I have a mental health issue.' It could be a disruption of your system itself, imbalance in your hormones, certainly as you become teenagers there’s a lot of things going on there. We should not be embarrassed to seek help. And everybody should know that there is help available."

Laura Warburton lost her daughter to suicide last year. The Huntsville woman has been working with legislators in the time since to promote state legislation addressing it as a public health concern. She attended the ceremonial signing on Monday.

"I thought if everything I was doing (for my daughter) wasn’t enough, there had to be more," Warburton said. "Changing the law is not going to prevent all suicides, but changing the law has opened up possibilities for all of us to do better, talk about it, get kids help. … That’s what we've got to do, we've got to start talking."

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