Preventing Teen Suicide Takes Awareness

Preventing Teen Suicide Takes Awareness
Posted on 08/06/2018

By Police Chief Robby Russo

Utah is growing and known for many beautiful things but being a leader in teen suicide is a distinction we don’t want. Last month, I was invited to attend a presentation and group discussion at Brighton High School on teen suicide prevention. The auditorium was filled with parent groups and educators. The presenter spoke about the use of social media and cell phones, as well as intolerance among peers, as contributors to teen suicide. As we left the school, I also was briefed about a 12-year-old who took his own life. I’ve never been able to reconcile how children so young can get to such finality. 

No family is immune. For me, the most important part of the presentation was learning about the warning signs, which are often noticed by those friends closest to the person. I’ve learned two things in my journey: Most people don’t want to die — they just want the pain to stop — and second, if you can just get the person past what often is a short window of crises, you have great success. I think the public would be shocked at the number of attempts police departments respond to every day. There has been a steady increase in the number of young people who are attempting suicide, or taking medicines (opiates), or harming themselves in some way because they are depressed. We need to focus on prevention, which includes keeping those medications secure and locking up your guns.

State Rep. Steve Eliason, who represents Cottonwood Heights, has made the opiate epidemic and preventing teen suicide his mission. “Specific resources are available to those in need of help,” he says, “including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and the SafeUT smartphone app where teens can access crisis counseling via text, chat or call and they can submit confidential tips to authorities.”

We have made significant progress in the bridging stigma that comes with mental health discussions and are especially helped by discussions of suicide and suicide prevention. If you need assistance or know anyone who does, tell someone. Utilize the app, hotline, school counselors or religious leaders, and please don’t leave that loaded gun on your nightstand or in your car with children in the house.