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Utah governor assembles team to tackle surge in teen suicides

(Laura Seitz, KSL)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Stakeholders throughout Utah joined forces Wednesday to tackle what Gov. Gary Herbert said is a "tender and difficult" issue that is quickly getting out of hand.

"We need to talk about it. We need to see if we can do something about it," Herbert said, referring to a growing surge in suicide, particularly among Utah teens. He said suicide has quickly become the leading cause of death for young people and it is past time to change that.

The Teen Suicide Prevention Task Force, announced Wednesday, is comprised of representatives from local churches and businesses, education and health care, as well as groups already working to prevent suicides. They are asked to meet and determine a game plan and report back to Herbert by Feb. 15.

Their proposal will be taken to lawmakers to consider legislative action.

"It's going to take all of us," Herbert said.

Beyond the special committee's efforts, Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, encouraged parents to bond and spend quality time with their teens, and also reminded people to lock up their guns and firearms, which he said contributed to more than half of all teen suicides last year.

Spike in suicides

"There isn't anything worse, other than the deed itself, than worrying about whether a family member is on the verge of committing suicide or what you can do to help them," said Gail Miller, who heads the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies. She said everyone knows someone who has been affected and can take the issue personally.

"There are ways to help," she said. "Our future is at risk and we need to do what we can to help."

Eliason said he will also introduce a bill during the upcoming session that will create a fund to back projects that work — a place for public and private donations to go to make the biggest difference.


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