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How does Utah’s suicide prevention plan compare to states with the lowest rates of suicide?

How does Utah’s suicide prevention plan compare to states with the lowest rates of suicide?

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Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY — The Beehive State is fifth in the nation for most suicides per capita and lost 620 people to suicide in 2016, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Utah’s youth suicide rate has tripled on average since 2007 and is the leading cause of death for children ages 11 to 17.

In response to suicide’s rising casualties, Gov. Gary Herbert appointed a suicide prevention task force in January to help stem the flow of needless deaths.

Here's a look at Utah's suicide prevention plan compared to those of the three states with the lowest rates of suicide.


Utah's task force recently presented a three-part plan designed to prevent and reduce suicide, including efforts to:

  • Improve crisis response: Expand the statewide crisis line and mobile emergency response units.
  • Enhance protective factors: Behavioral health care, contact with caregivers, problem-solving skills and connectedness.
  • Reduce risk factors: Prior suicide attempts, mood disorders, substance abuse and access to lethal means.
Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, one of the task force leaders, said research shows the state could cut youth suicides by 50 percent if parents put a trigger lock on guns. About 50 percent of suicides are completed with a firearm, according to data from the Utah Department of Health.

The task force also plans to broaden the scope of the [ data ](< >), which provides 24/7 counseling and crisis intervention and allows students to report instances of bullying and at-risk behavior.

And though Utah is taking a hard stance to stamp out suicide, the state still has a long way to go.

In fact, most Mountain West states have higher rates of suicide than others throughout the nation. While there is no one, defining cause behind this anomaly, [ experts point to](<>) the region’s culture of rugged individualism, higher rates of gun ownership and high altitude as possible factors.

Coastal states, especially in the East, experience some of the lowest rates of suicide in the country. New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland and Connecticut make up the bottom five, according to 2016 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here are the suicide prevention plans for the three states with the lowest rates of suicide:

New Jersey:

The small state of New Jersey has the least amount of suicides per capita, but “recognizes that one suicide or suicide attempt is one too many.”

The state maintains strict laws restricting youth access to firearms and mandates staff training in schools for suicide prevention and the detection of early warning signs.

The Traumatic Loss Coalition for Youth Program is an interactive, statewide network that offers collaboration and support to those working with students, and the 2nd Floor Youth Helpline and Jersey Voice organizations work to provide youth and young adults with a place to turn during difficult moments.

New Jersey also has a mobile response and stabilization service, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to help children and youth experiencing emotional or behavioral crises. The New Jersey Suicide Prevention Hopeline launched in 2013 offers in-state peer support and a suicide prevention hotline staffed by mental health professionals and peer support specialists.

[ New York](<\.pdf>):

New York’s suicide prevention plan seeks to first address the public mental health system and behavioral health care settings. The state’s plan begins with improving outpatient clinic care and invests in trainings that use the latest clinical knowledge to move the system toward population-based, preventative engagement and care.

The state also seeks to identify and intervene with high-risk populations, some of which aren’t often covered by the health and behavioral health care system. Veterans, Native Americans and the elderly are often at a higher risk of suicide, yet don't always have the same preventative care available to them as the rest of the population.

“Primary prevention strategies — those that prevent individuals from becoming suicidal in the first place — and secondary prevention strategies — those that intervene at the earliest stages of suicidal crises offer critically important avenues for reducing the number of suicide deaths in New York State,” the plan reads.

The state also hopes to develop and strengthen community coalitions to create a "backbone" of local suicide prevention infrastructure, including events that will provide practical tools on screening and referral of suicidal patients or people.

[ Massachusetts](<\.pdf>):

Massachusetts conducted extensive research to determine where the state's priorities should lie in the fight to address suicide prevention.

The research uncovered a need for culturally aware, community-based training on suicide prevention that addressed the needs of survivors, consumers, caregivers and targeted populations.

“We recognize that some populations are at higher risk of suicide than others, including (but not limited to) consumers of mental health services, veterans, gay/lesbian/bisexual and transgender youth, survivors of trauma, and others,” the plan reads.

The state is working toward creating stronger links at the state and community levels between mental health, substance abuse and community health services as well as schools, faith-based organizations and first responders.

Know the warning signs

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or exhibiting warning signs, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

The following are warning signs of immediate risk. Call 911 if you or someone you know is experiencing the following:

  • Threatening to hurt or kill themself or talking of wanting to hurt or kill themself
  • Looking for ways to kill themself by seeking access to firearms, available pills or other means
  • Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide when these actions are out of the ordinary

    Additional Warning Signs:

  • Increased substance use
  • No reason for living, no sense of purpose in life
  • Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
  • Feeling trapped — like there's no way out
  • Hopelessness
  • Withdrawal from friends, family and society
  • Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge
  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking
  • Dramatic mood changes

    Courtesy of the Utah Suicide Prevention Coalition

  • Suicide prevention resources
    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


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