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Public safety officials team up for suicide prevention effort


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SALT LAKE CITY — When first responders arrive on scene, they have to push aside their own emotions. That can potentially turn into a heavy burden they then carry alone.

"There is some of this that we don't take home to families, and it is stuff we need to address and own and mitigate so that it doesn't become an issue with our people," said Christopher Burke, who oversees medical education for the Salt Lake City Fire Department.

Burke and other leaders in public safety gathered Tuesday night at a dinner sponsored by the Utah chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to discuss solutions.

"We are just bridging the gap for police and firefighters to not only get training they need to handle people that are going through some tough times in their life, but also give them resources because it is a growing problem within the firefighter and police communities," said Zach Robinson, with University of Utah Trauma Services.

University Hospital has joined the Utah Suicide Prevention Coalition along with Intermountain Healthcare.

We are just bridging the gap for police and firefighters to not only get training they need to handle people that are going through some tough times in their life, but also give them resources ...

–Zach Robinson, University of Utah Trauma Services

"Our friends at (Intermountain) have implemented a continuum of suicide prevention efforts from the (emergency room) to their behavioral health provider network to their doctors and it is inside their electronic health record," explained Doug Thomas, director of the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health.

Thomas said Utah has come a long way in suicide prevention.

"I've been to a couple of national conferences recently and they are talking about what's happening in Utah. We have great public/private partnerships," he said.

Those partnerships now treat suicide as a public health issue.

In the past four years, the state Legislature has passed five bills which have significantly expanded and continued to fund statewide and youth suicide prevention initiatives.

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

Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, took the lead in getting those bills passed and Tuesday night received the "Allies in Action" state award from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

"Suicide is something we can do something about, and the community is rallying to the cause and prevention and postvention are things people aren't afraid to talk about as much as they used to be," Eliason said.

A big reason people are becoming less afraid to talk about suicide is because more people are talking about it responsibly and, as a result, are saving lives.

"We have to partner so that we can get these resources out to people who need them the most," Burke said.

Information and phone numbers for resources is available on the website for the Utah Suicide Prevention Coalition, Help is also available at the 24-hour lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Contributing: Keith McCord


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