Comments about ‘Suicides in Utah increasing, but solutions are in sight’

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Published: Sunday, Aug. 25 2013 10:45 a.m. MDT

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Utes Fan
Salt Lake City, UT


"Why isn't the high LDS influence in Utah helping to stem the tide?"

It appears that the high LDS influence might actually help after all. The mountain states have higher than average suicide rates in the USA. But Utah has been among the lowest in suicide rates in the mountain states. If the LDS influence increases suicide rates as many critics claim, then Utah would have the highest suicide rate in the mountain states, not the lowest. But that is not the case. I realize that correlation does not necessarily mean causation, so we must be cautious with assumptions, however.

newhall, CA

As a parent, what do you do when your son talks about suicide? Has no motivation. Feels like a complete failure, "The black sheep of the family." A loser when he compares himself to the rest of his cousins. Questions his career path, which is a good one, but now expresses self-doubt? Goes to the art school of his dream and still has no motivation or self respect and very low self esteem and is gay and basically doesn't believe in God and denies everything he ever learned as a mormon youth? What do we do? He even goes to therapy and that doesn't seem to be working. Sometimes he talks about just going to a mental institution and staying there forever.


"But your thoughts seem motivated towards gun control."
"So to somehow link suicide with gun control is absurd."
"guns do not kill, and the people's right to own them must not be controlled"

Did I say anything about enacting gun control laws?
Although I am in favor of gun control laws.
But having a gun in the home is a personal choice. Even in states which have strict gun control laws, people are allowed to have guns in the home.

We made a specific decision, being parents of 3 sons, to not have a gun in the home. (not fanatical--my kids had toy guns and when older occasionally went to a shooting range with their dad). But, we had been educated about the link in young males between emotional upset triggering physical activity. "Don't give an emotionally upset son the keys to the car" we learned at a seminar offered parents at school. We knew the heightened risk between successful completion of suicide and firearms. I view it like a seat belt. Accidents still happen with seat belts-but a seat belt improves the chances of survival.

Salt Lake City, UT

Almost a decade ago I gave the life-sketch at my best friends funeral. Somewhere he lost hope. And I have yet to figure out where.

But I have some ideas.... With people being less friendly, people spending more time in doors. The disappearance of wholesome mainstream entertainment, and the emergence of the promiscuous, drug-fueled, anything goes culture of pride and selfishness, no wife, no kids, no commitment, is it any wonder the suicide rate increases?

Selfishness IS the root of all evil. And selfishness IS misery.

But with good parenting, establishment of a productive, God-fearing, Christ-centered lifestyle, starting a family, getting an education, owning a home, it doesn't have to be this way.

Selfishness never was happiness. ;)


Utah Dept of Health stats for UT:
80% of suicide deaths were boys/men, especially between the ages of 15-44.
Firearms accounted for 67% of suicides age 21 or younger, 60% of ALL suicide deaths.

Depression can be hugely challenging and difficult to overcome. I wish there were more effective treatments and I think one day there will be. Be careful with meds--for some they help, for others they don't. What about support groups--for instance is there an "Affirmation" (LDS gay group) in your area? Maybe it would help him to connect with others. (they have a website, affirmation org) And/or, finding a "service" type activity--helping others on a personal level can be personally fulfilling and meaningful.
Good luck

Orem, UT

LDS Liberal said, "The increase use of medications with known 'increased suicidal risks' needs to addressed first."

A 2006 study showed that SSRI antidepressants have saved thousands of lives since they became available in the U.S. in the late 1980s. Suicide rates remained fairly steady for the 15 years prior to the introduction of Prozac in 1988, but they dropped steadily over the next 14 years as use of the drug increased. Between 12.7 and 13.7 suicides occurred among every 100,000 people in the U.S. from the early 1960s until 1988. Suicides steadily declined after that to a low of 10.4 per 100,000 in 2000. A 2009 study in Europe showed that “Suicide rates have tended to decrease more in European countries where there has been a greater increase in the use of antidepressants. These findings underline the importance of the appropriate use of antidepressants as part of routine care for people diagnosed with depression, therefore reducing the risk of suicide.”

Orem, UT

My2Cents, you said, "There is little we can do to stop it. . . . Intervention only makes their lives worse longer." Wow. Imagine if society felt the same way about people with diabetes or heart disease. Depression is treatable and people who suffer from it can go on to live happy, productive lives. And there is evidence that intervention does help prevent suicide: A 2-year intervention program was performed in Nuremberg at four levels: training of family doctors and support through different methods; a public relations campaign informing about depression; cooperation with community facilitators (teachers, priests, local media, etc.); and support for self-help activities as well as for high-risk groups. The effects of the 2-year intervention on the number of suicidal acts were evaluated with respect to a 1-year baseline and a control region. Results: Compared to the control region, a reduction in frequency of suicidal acts was observed in Nuremberg during the 2-year intervention.

Your statement, "Its [sic] their right to due [sic] if they so choose" is alarming.


One problem seems to be that when "mental illness" is diagnosed we hear of many cases of prescribed medications, based on that diagnosis and supposed to alleviate problems, leading to suicidal feelings and actual suicides. I'd like to hear and read more discussion on this; some on this thread have already indicated problems with psychiatric meds.

I do think that people feel driven to extreme measures when terrible hurts, overwhelming and seemingly hopeless circumstances and feelings of isolation are not mitigated by the concern and love of those around them. I see some people hurting that are ignored or merely told to "cheer up" without any attempt to ascertain if there is a real problem, and others who might fake a suicide attempt just to get their way. The last group never take enough pills to succeed though I suppose that sometimes they might do so accidentally.

I do suspect frequent failure to take time to talk with a person in especially dire circumstances; we don't know the extent of their worries or think they will get by. It is common for people to say and do terrible things to others, but how powerful is a kind word.

Bakersfield, CA

@Utes Fan- Too high of rates for mountain states vs. the NY/East Coast lifestyle, from my perspective.

@Capsaicin- Agreed, selfishness has consequences. But all of the solutions in your last paragraph don't deal with those who came from great families and had success and love, but used Rxs that had fatal consequences.

@Truthseeker- Yes, guns are the easiest and most used. But their absence is no deterrent. My Utah neice (36) used a shotgun, the California neice (39) hung herself in the family tool shed. I doubt the CA neice, being an RN, would have ever used a gun. But then nothing in her sweet life would ever have indicated such action from her.

We should give our best, try to be aware, and show love to all. But, IMHO, there is no easy solution or trite reasoning that covers those who are chemically-induced to such action.

Henderson, NV

sg: Thank you for expressing your concerns. Awareness is the first key to finding help. Just last night I watched an episode of BYUtv's program "Turning Point" which was about the healing capacity of animals to help those who are depressed and suicidal; those without hope. The show was called "The Gentle Barn" (and it's located in CA!). Go to BYUtv.org, click on "shows", find "Turning Point" and watch this episode. The connection for many children/youth/even adults is to feel needed. When they are put in charge of helping heal animals like these, they begin to feel needed. Check it out to see if your son could be helped in such a way.

andrews afb, MD

If you have children / adults that are dealing with depression / mental illness you should seriously question whether you should continue to keep firearms in your home.

If you are going to keep firearms in your home then you should have a dang good plan that prevents said children / adults from accessing those weapons.

mid-state, TN

@sg --

"what do you do when your son talks about suicide?"

I'm so sorry for your son's struggles.

It's great that he's in therapy. If at all possible, try to make sure that he also connects with some sort of LGBT support group.

LGBT people are roughly 4-5 times more likely to commit suicide than straight people. One huge reason is widespread institutionalized homophobia. Everyone from their school to their parents to their church tells them that they are "less" than everyone else. This problem is especially prevalent in conservative states like Utah with strong and disapproving churches.

Keep reminding him that you love him and value him just the way he is, and that he's an important part of your life. Do NOT tell him that homosexuality is "bad" or "sinful". Even if you believe those things are true, he doesn't need to hear them right now -- they will only increase his sense of failure and alienation.

And lastly -- if he thinks he needs to go to a mental hospital, he might be right. Don't discount the possibility.

I wish you and your son much healing and hope.

Manti, UT

@Truthseeker. Canada and Australia both have strict gun control and both countries outrun the US in suicide. If someone wants to do it, they will find the tool.

Salt Lake City, UT

My sister lost one son to suicide and shortly after another son died. Her health had been bad and I think it was just too much. She died within a couple of years. It has been so devastating to our entire family. It is like somebody rips open a huge hole in your heart and the pain just doesn't want to go away. I think we lack hope in our society. It seems like we dwell far to much on the negative. Even as an adult, it can be hard! Any of us can find ourselves at a moment when things seem too hard. I have had total strangers ask me how I was! Two really hard moments and somehow these two ladies knew it was important to talk to me. I wasn't thinking suicide, but I was in a bad place, and by feeling their concern, it did wonders to how felt. It made me feel hope. Hope is what we need to help them have. I pray for young people a lot. Nobody should ever have to lose someone this way. Thanks to those who work to prevent it. God bless you every day

Chandler, AZ

You cannot chalk up suicide to a few simple boxes...it is pernicious and often totally inexplicable...don't blame it on guns, even lifetime gun-haters will find a gun if that is their method-of-choice (personal knowledge)...we have a lousy lousy mental health system all over the USA, and Utah is perhaps worse in some ways, because many religious people believe a mentally/emotionally ill person can and should simply pray the problem(s) away; or worse yet, simply repent of whatever must be causing that illness! And many people never seek/obtain life-saving treatment -- what a shame. However, many take their own lives during or after the best treatment available...as I said, often totally unexplainable. We can learn to survive without explanations - however, it is really difficult for our finite, earthly brains to deal with. Prevention, prevention, prevention...get help for anyone you know who will accept it. Keep trying - it is worth it.

Utes Fan
Salt Lake City, UT


"@Utes Fan- Too high of rates for mountain states vs. the NY/East Coast lifestyle, from my perspective."

Perry F. Renshaw, M.D., Ph.D., MBA, professor of psychiatry at the U School of Medicine and an investigator with Utah Science Technology and Research (USTAR) initiative has found a correlation between higher altitude and suicide, hence higher suicide rates than the East Coast.


With regard to the GENERAL sense of well-being of the people of the Rocky Mountain region, a "happiness" poll that Gallup released in February last year placed Utah as number five, Colorado number six, and Montana scored number ten. I don't know where Idaho and Wyoming fell, but you can check it out.

This year's poll, or that released this year, had Utah and Colorado in the top five (2nd and 4th respectively). I know that this is not the quite, or not exactly, the subject under discussion but it might rehabilitate the Western States in the minds of some as generally a happy place to be.

We can still be concerned for those experiencing a depressed period in their lives. I hope we are.

moniker lewinsky
Taylorsville, UT

The Canuck:
Good point about life insurance benefits. And it doesn't help that I've read several articles recently that advocate drug testing welfare recipients or one that I read just today that suggests that most states award benefits that make holding down a job "not worth it".
Contrary to popular sentiment, most people want to provide for their families and they want a job that will allow them to do so.
But what am I doing trying to explain this to a Canuck? ;)

Commerce, Texas

Thank you for writing this excellent article, and thanks to those who are reaching out as listeners, advocates, etc.

Local, Texas, and national survey data indicate that about one in eight students have made one or more attempts of varying lethality, and suicide is the second to third highest cause of death in the younger age groups, among others, depending upon where murder comes in.

I've been there, needed extensive antidepressant and talk therapy to deal with the cognitive distortions and fallacies that lead to suicide, and lost a brother to suicide. More should be taught about the warning signs of, and cognitive distortions that lead to, of suicide. Alive is better! Life does get better! Reach out! For heaven's sake, listen carefully, and without criticism and judgment! Nobody can catch all of them but you may catch on and save one. Get help for anyone you know who may be contemplating suicide.

Christmas Carole

@My2Cents: I believe God blessed us with this knowledge and it is wise to utilize it.

Chemical imbalances can be EXTREMELY debilitating. I don't believe most people would advise someone with diabetes to not take meds. As a society(perhaps mainly in Utah)we need to remove the stigma of mental health. Have you ever been in a dark deep pit without any light and any way to get out? Have you ever experienced a child in 3rd grade who still couldn't read and got into trouble at recess? BOTH of theses circumstances were helped because of intervention and medication. One was able to live a normal life with meds(and never be in the dark pit again!), and the 3rd grader learned to read within weeks LITERALLY(knew it but was unable to get it from brain to reading without proper meds)and graduated high school in top fourth of the class.

@Gildas & Sg: From experience within my family I would advise anyone to first find a psychiatrist(counselor who can administer meds i.e.MD)they trust enormously(personally that was LDS only)and try different Meds for recommended time period until one works.

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