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Curing Utah's 'silent epidemic'

Finding a solution to teen suicide

Published: Sunday, Feb. 24 2013 5:40 p.m. MST

"It took us five to seven years to put it together," he said. "We didn't do it overnight. This is hundreds and hundreds of hours."

Glather said she was not familiar enough with the HOPE model to comment specifically on it's efficacy, but she praised the way the task force had built a comprehensive partnership to address the issue. 

"Certainly the idea of bringing the community partners together and talking about how we solve this in our community is a good model," she said. "Everyone needs to be on board and look at what works and what the research says."

Puzzle pieces

Robles said her bill is only a piece of the ultimate puzzle of curbing Utah's suicide problem. She said the death of children is a family, community and state issue that will require continued discussion and work, but a crucial first step is making sure that initial collaboration – the one between parent and school – is taking place.

"The reality is we have a crisis," she said. "I don't know that we can overestimate the problem."

Hudnall had a similar view of the issue, saying that while he believes most school districts already strive to keep parents informed, a law reinforcing that practice would certainly not harm the suicide prevention process.

"Anything we can do to prevent suicide, I'm for," he said. "I'm sure that we will never do enough."

Glather also said that for parents who may be questioning whether their child's behavior warrants treatment, the standard criteria is when there is an interruption to daily life, such as oversleeping or insomnia, a sudden decline in academic performance or a loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy.

"Any time it gets to the point that it's interrupting their daily activity, their ability to engage in activities in their daily life, that's when parents should consider contacting a professional," she said.

How to get help

According to Greg Hudnall, a key focus of the Utah County HOPE Task Force's mission to prevent suicide is educating individuals about what resources are available to them and where to go for mental health services.

Here are some of the national and local agencies that provide assistance to persons experiencing emotional stress and suicidal thoughts.

• National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

• Valley Mental Health:

> Salt Lake County Crisis Line: (801) 587-3000

> Summit County Crisis Line: (435) 649-8347

> Tooele County Crisis Line: (435) 882-5600

• Wasatch Mental Health:

> Utah County Crisis Line: (801) 373-7393

> Wasatch County Crisis Line: (801) 318-4016

E-mail: benwood@desnews.com

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