Teen suicide is increasing nationally, especially in Utah. Suicide is the leading cause of death for youth ages 10-17 in Utah (Utah Department of Health, 2014). An average of 557 Utahns die from suicide and 4,543 Utahns attempt* suicide each year. Youth ages 10 to17 comprise 13.0% of the Utah population, 5.1% of all suicides, and 22.7% of all suicide attempts.
Two youth are treated for suicide attempts every day in Utah. More youth are hospitalized or treated in an emergency department (ED) for suicide attempts than are fatally injured. All suicide attempts should be taken seriously. Those who survive suicide attempts are often seriously injured and many have depression and other mental health problems.
In 2015, 24.8% of Utah students reported they felt sad or hopeless, 16.6% reported they seriously considered attempting suicide, 13.5% reported they made a suicide plan, and 7.6% reported they attempted suicide one or more times. These were significantly higher than percentages reported in 2013 at 20.8%, 14.1%, 10.8% and 6.2% respectively.
Raising awareness about teen suicide is important, because teens may have suicidal thoughts and parents or other adults may not be aware until it’s too late.
How do you know if a teenager is at risk for suicide?
Risk factors for suicide include:
• Alcohol or drug abuse
• Diagnosable mental health disorder, or family history of such
• Lack of social support, bullying
• Relationship or school problems
• Stressful life event or loss
• Physical health problems, such as chronic pain or traumatic brain injury
• Those who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual
Warning signs for teen suicide
• Giving away prized possessions
• Talking about death or wanting to be dead
• Sudden interest or disinterest in religion
• Carelessness in appearance
• Decline in academic/work performance
• Chronic truancy or tardiness
What parents can do to prevent teen suicide
• Arrange for mental health care treatment if you see warning signs
• Provide positive connections to family, peers, community, and social institutions
• Teach skills in problem solving, resilience, nonviolent conflict resolution
• Limit screen time to less than three hours per day.
• Take any suicide threats seriously
• Restrict access to highly lethal means of suicide, such as firearms or pills
• Share cultural and religious beliefs that support self-preservation
School programs to help raise awareness about suicide
Many schools have Hope Squads that educate and train teens how to recognize warning signs for suicide in other students and what to do if they feel someone is at risk. The Riverton Hope Squad has T-shirts they wear.
Riverton High has had a Hope Squad since 2006. Each January a Hope Week is held with activities to educate students about suicide prevention which culminates in a Hope Walk. The Hope Walk is held in partnership with Riverton City and Riverton Hospital.
Students and parents concerned about or affected by suicide walk a mile together and hold banners and carry yellow balloons, the color for suicide awareness. They can share stories as they walk. The Riverton Mayor addresses the crowd at the end of the walk.
Upcoming Event: Hope Walk for Suicide Prevention Awareness
9 a.m. – Sat. Jan. 27, 2018
Riverton High School, 12476 South Silverwolf Way, Riverton
Community Resources for Suicide Prevention:
Primary Children’s Behavioral Health Services at Primary Children’s Outpatient Clinics.
For adults, Intermountain has a New Behavioral Health Access Center on the LDS Hospital campus. Open house is Jan. 18. It is a 24-hours per day, seven days a week walk-in center for adult individuals in mental health crisis.