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Deseret News

An LDS foundation gives $25K to Affirmation for new suicide prevention initiative

By Tad Walch, KSL | Posted - Jul 11th, 2018 @ 6:48pm


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SALT LAKE CITY — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Foundation has given $25,000 to a new suicide prevention initiative.

The grant was awarded in April to Affirmation, an international support group focused on helping Latter-day Saints who have same gender attraction, though it's not affiliated with the church itself. The group will use the money to certify its leadership as suicide prevention trainers and provide suicide prevention training at the group's conferences for the next three years, Affirmation president Carson Tueller said.

An LDS Church spokesman confirmed the donation.

"We are committed to working with community partners to help prevent suicide and hope this contribution will support this important cause," LDS Church spokesman Doug Andersen said. "We are mindful of those who are struggling and encourage them to reach out for help."

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Foundation is the charitable giving arm associated with Deseret Management Corp. DMC owns and operates the Deseret News and other for-profit businesses such as Deseret Book, KSL-TV and KSL Newsradio, and Deseret Digital Media.

Grants and gifts provided by the foundation come from church-owned commercial businesses. None of the funds come from donations made by church members.

Tueller said Affirmation's executive board identified suicide prevention as its top priority for 2018 at a meeting in January. In February, Tueller and Affirmation executive director John Gustav-Wrathall met with a church representative and asked for the grant.

"Having (the foundation) respond in the way they did," Tueller said, "not only giving us the amount we asked for but more than that amount, felt like an expression that this organization sees LGBTQ people, that there is an awareness not only of our existence but our need for assistance and to be heard in the church."

Affirmation's leadership will be trained by the QPR Institute, Tueller said. QPR is an emergency mental health intervention for suicidal persons and stands for Question, Persuade and Refer. The intent is also to identify and interrupt a suicide crisis and direct a person to proper care.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints launched a suicide prevention webpage in 2016, which it expanded in January 2018 when Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles joined the Utah governor's task force on suicide prevention.

The church gave $150,000 to the Utah suicide prevention fund in April.

Last week, the church added eight new videos to suicide.lds.org, including several featuring Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Elder Renlund encouraged fellow Latter-day Saints and others to reach out and listen to and love those considering suicide. He specifically said that it is "totally false" that someone who dies by suicide is banished to hell forever, an old notion that can shame people who have suicidal thoughts.

A rise in suicides has catalyzed religious, political and activist organizations.

Elder Rasband said in January that youth suicide has reached a "crisis point."

Suicide is the leading cause of death for young people ages 10 to 24, according to Kimberly Myers, Utah's suicide prevention coordinator.

The number of Utah teenagers lost to suicide jumped 141 percent from 2011 to 2015, according to a Utah Department of Health report released in November.

Though increases in youth suicides is galvanizing, suicide is a problem across all ages. Utah's modal age for suicide is between 36 and 45.

Each suicide typically arises from a combination of factors, but suicide is now the 10th-leading cause of death in the United States, according to a CDC report released last month.

Affirmation will use the grant to certify suicide prevention trainers who speak English, Spanish and Portuguese and who come from different spiritual perspectives, sexual orientations and gender identities. Those trainers will conduct suicide prevention training at every Affirmation conference.

Affirmation's annual international conference will be held July 20-22 at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City.

Affirmation also will make trauma and suicide prevention available online at no cost.

Those having suicidal thoughts or anyone who knows someone who is struggling can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at any time at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Utahns can also use the SafeUT app or call the Utah crisis line, 801-587-3000.

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Tad Walch

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