Curing Utah's 'silent epidemic'

Finding a solution to teen suicide

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  • very concerned Sandy, UT
    March 1, 2013 2:50 p.m.

    More medical journal articles/studies demonstrating that religiosity correlates with decreased risk of suicide. There are numerous others one could find in PubMed.

    Nonnemaker, James M; McNeely, Clea; Blum, Robert Wm, Social Science & Medicine 57,11 (Dec 2003) 2049-2054 (discusses which factors of religiosity give the protective affect against suicide. paraphrased)

    Bagley, Christopher; Mallick, Kanka. Canadian Journal of Education 22. 1 (Winter 1997):89 (religion provides significant protective affect from suicide, paraphrased)

    Donahue, M., & Benson, P. (1995). Religion and the well - being of adolescents. Journal of Social Issues, 51, 145 - 156. (*religiosity had no significant links with self - esteem, despite having significant negative correlations with suicidality* from abstract)

    Jie Zhang, Jie; Jin, Shenghua. Adolescence. 31. 122 (Summer 1996) 451-67
    (*The findings in the American data support previous literature that family cohesion and religiosity are inversely related to suicide ideation.*) from abstract

    Fitzpatric, Kevin M; Piko, Bettina F.; Miller, Elizabeth. Suicide & Life-Threatening Behavior. 38. 5 (Oct 2008): 552-63
    (*the lowering role of religious protective factors was limited, though student's belonging to or their perception of belonging to a spiritual community was a significant factor in lowering the odds of suicide ideation. [PUBLICATION ABSTRACT]*)

  • very concerned Sandy, UT
    March 1, 2013 2:11 p.m.

    The following review of the literature (though not specific to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints) may be helpul in the observed protection given by religion against suicide. It reviews many other interesting studies and articles.

    J Relig Health. 2009 Sep;48(3):332-41. doi: 10.1007/s10943-008-9181-2. Epub 2008 Jul 10.

    Religion and suicide.

    Gearing RE, Lizardi D.


    Columbia University, School of Social Work, 1255 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10027, USA. [email protected]

    Abstract (or summary)

    Religion impacts suicidality. One's degree of religiosity can potentially serve as a protective factor against suicidal behavior. To accurately assess risk of suicide, it is imperative to understand the role of religion in suicidality. PsycINFO and MEDLINE databases were searched for published articles on religion and suicide between 1980 and 2008. Epidemiological data on suicidality across four religions, and the influence of religion on suicidality are presented. Practice guidelines are presented for incorporating religiosity into suicide risk assessment. Suicide rates and risk and protective factors for suicide vary across religions. It is essential to assess for degree of religious commitment and involvement to accurately identify suicide risk.

  • Born that Way Layton, UT
    March 1, 2013 6:05 a.m.

    My religion kept me from killing myself. I'm grateful I had LDS leaders and more particularly God to answers my prayers and help me through some of the most confusing and difficult years of my life. I guess I was just lucky when looking over statistics, but then that's what most people say about miracles--you just got lucky.

  • amazondoc USA, TN
    Feb. 27, 2013 11:31 a.m.

    @Caravan --

    You said: "Who said that Mormon youth are committing suicide in Utah at any rate higher than the national average?"

    That study published by the BYU professor does, for one.

    It says, in part: "the 95 percent confidence intervals for the relative risks of the less active LDS and nonmembers overlap for all age groups."

    In English, this means that only the most active LDS members showed any protective effect from church membership. The "Eagle Scouts" of the LDS church, more or less. All other LDS church members showed the very same increased risk of suicide (Utah compared to the nation) as non-LDS members did.

    And, again -- this only means that the most successful members of this large cohesive group showed the protective effect. You might see the very same effect if you studied Eagle Scouts, or highly successful members of any other cohesive group.

    Sterling C. Hilton et al. Am. J. Epidemiol. (2002) 155 (5): 413-419.

  • The Caravan Moves On Enid, OK
    Feb. 27, 2013 9:39 a.m.

    @ Baccus0902, Leesburg, VA - My dear RED Shirt, It takes a village!

    Dear 'Baccus0902' -


    It takes a "family"!

    Yes, a mom and a dad, MARRIED to each other and faithful to their marriage covenants to raise a child successfully.

    A 'village'?


  • The Caravan Moves On Enid, OK
    Feb. 27, 2013 9:31 a.m.

    To: Shazandra, Bakersfield, CA
    "Clearly Mormonism has not accomished the success its founders hoped for."

    Back off, Shazandra!

    Who said that Mormon youth are committing suicide in Utah at any rate higher than the national average?

    In case you haven't noticed, or aren't willing to admit, Utah is no longer filled with 'just Mormons'. Utah, instead, has been literally over-run with people moving in from other states, many of which, in fact, came from YOUR state.

    I try to be patient with naysayers and LDS-antagonists such as yourself but frankly, sometimes it's tough.

    How long, Lord, how long?...

  • amazondoc USA, TN
    Feb. 26, 2013 5:41 p.m.

    @Truthseeker --

    Yup, I actually read that study myself. I'm a whiz at Google. ;-)

    What you posted doesn't contradict a single thing that I said in my previous comment. Once again, in short -- I agree with you that membership in a religious group appears to have a protective effect against suicide. However, that does not prove that religious **belief** or religion itself has any protective effect at all. It may well turn out that membership in **any** cohesive group would have the very same effect, including secular groups.

    For the rest of my argument, refer to my earlier post.

  • Truthseeker SLO, CA
    Feb. 26, 2013 3:21 p.m.


    Agree. Dr, Hilton noted in his conclusion that more study is needed.

    The study looked at the 551 suicides in Utah for males aged 15–34 years from 1991 to 1995. "Of these 551 suicides, 273 were linked to an LDS membership record by using the probabilistic linking program, and 56 were linked to an LDS record by church personnel; therefore, 329 (59.7 percent) linked to an LDS membership record." The researchers classified victims church activity rates using LDS priesthood ordination records.



    Suicide by firearms has a very high rate of success. It is very risky, reckless and irresponsible to have unsecured guns in the home--and I myself wouldn't be confident that a young adult or teen couldn't figure out a way to gain access to a "secure" firearm. As a parent of 3 boys i made the calculation just to not have a gun in the house period. They could still enjoy outings with dad to a shooting range etc.

    Last post.

  • nehimomma Parsons, KS
    Feb. 26, 2013 9:29 a.m.

    Children do not kill themselves necessarily for the same reasons and same thought process as adults. Often adults plan their suicide for months at a time. It's easier to intervene in these cases, because their is time to realize what is going on, or hear their pleas for help and get them help.

    Children, especially the younger they are, do not typically plan their deaths months ahead of time. Often it's one exact event that sets things in motion, and they react to that event by killing themselves. This appears to be one of those cases. These are incredibly difficult to stop because you don't have time. It sounds nice in theory to just lock up your gun thus a child won't get into it. But tweens and teens are not stupid, they know where the key is, they know how to get into the safe.

    If you don't have a gun in your home, that leaves a child who wants to end it with alternates that are not apt to be as successful. in other words, you remove the gun, you remove the 100% chance a child that is wanting to end it, will succeed.

  • amazondoc USA, TN
    Feb. 26, 2013 5:14 a.m.

    @Truthseeker --

    You said: "Dr. Stirling Hilton, Dept of Statistics, BYU"

    That's an interesting finding, although this particular study is a little bit like cancer studies performed by tobacco companies -- not something to take too seriously. Nonetheless, it's true that some studies have found a protective effect of belonging to a religious group.

    HOWEVER -- this doesn't mean that religion itself is actually protecting anyone from anything. It could easily just mean that **belonging to any cohesive group** would provide the same protection. For instance, belonging to the Boy Scouts might be equally protective -- or any other group that provides a sense of belonging.

    That would also help to explain why non-religious kids have a higher suicide rate in such a highly religious state as Utah -- because of their sense of ostracism. LDS people in particular seem very cohesive (I lived in SLC for several years -- I do have personal experience) and insular -- you're either one of them, or you're "other". And that sense of "otherness" can be agonizing for young people.

    Notice I'm just speculating here. But it's a good idea to **think** about studies, not just swallow them whole.

  • Truthseeker SLO, CA
    Feb. 25, 2013 8:39 p.m.

    Dr. Stirling Hilton, Dept of Statistics, BYU, conducted a study which was published in The American Journal of Epidemiology, 2001 titled "Suicide Rates and Religious Commitment in Young Adult Males in Utah," which stated:

    "In summary, active LDS males aged 15–34 years are at decreased risk of suicide compared with their Utah counterparts, both less active and non-LDS. In addition, active LDS males aged 20–34 years are at decreased risk of suicide compared with their US counterparts. We believe that the inverse association between high levels of religiosity and suicide is relatively unexplored, yet ecologic studies and our own research indicate that it is real. In fact, since individual data are used and our measure of religiosity is not self-reported, our findings represent stronger evidence than previously published research in support of the hypothesis that religious involvement is protective against suicide."

  • very concerned Sandy, UT
    Feb. 25, 2013 7:31 p.m.

    There is a significant amount of medical literature documenting that statistically, religiousness *protects* against suicide and suicidal thoughts. I found this literature in PubMed, an excellent government-maintained database of academic medical journal articles. One could also search Psychinfo, a psychological database, but I myself do not have access to it. A similar search in Proquest Research Library: Social Sciences section, corroborates the results from PubMed. Pointing fingers at religion or any specific religion won't solve the problem.

    Although I'm not in agreement with some of your writings and their implications, I do like your comment, * . . . let's pray and work together for solutions in our imperfect world until The Perfect returns. We all are on the same side in this, and to our benefit, we all know Jesus is/has the Only answers.*

    I too think suicide is so tragic that we would do well to lay aside our differences in order to positively influence teens and protect them from the underlying causes.

  • Filo Doughboy Bakersfield, CA
    Feb. 25, 2013 7:06 p.m.

    Tragic. Tragic.

  • Aggielove Cache county, USA
    Feb. 25, 2013 5:48 p.m.

    Who are more stressed, acheievrs, or lazy people.
    That does make a difference also.
    People with extreme high expectations, put lots of stress on themselves.

  • worf Mcallen, TX
    Feb. 25, 2013 3:55 p.m.

    Here in Texas, students do get stressed out with these tests. No joke! Lot's of pressure on them. These tests may have started here, but has gone federal, and forced on all states.

    At least with religion, a person can move away from what the majority wants. With standardized testing,--there's no escape, and the majority would probably not miss it.

  • Truthseeker SLO, CA
    Feb. 25, 2013 3:04 p.m.


    Thank you. Yes, one suicide attempt increases the risk of another suicide attempt. However, fewer than 10 percent of people who survive even a nearly lethal suicide attempt go on to DIE by suicide thereafter.

    In 2010, there were 25 suicide attempts for every one successful suicide.

    People who have access to firearms are more likely to successfully commit suicide.

    People who live in homes with guns are not more suicidal than people who live in homes without guns. They do not have higher rates of depression. They do not have higher rates of drug abuse. They do not have higher rates of any kind of mental illness nor do they even have higher rates of thinking about suicide or attempting suicide. What they do have is a much higher rate of dying in any given attempt.

    Fewer than 10% of people who kill themselves with guns acquire the gun within a 2-4 week period before the death. Most of the guns used in firearm suicides are guns that have been in the home for a long, long time.

  • wingman Lindon, UT
    Feb. 25, 2013 1:56 p.m.

    This is not a "Utah" problem as much as it is a "Western United States" problem. Nine of the top 10 (Utah is number 10) are in Western States, with the highest rates being those with the lowest populations. South Dakota is in the top 10 and also has a small population.

  • RedShirt USS Enterprise, UT
    Feb. 25, 2013 1:31 p.m.

    To "Baccus0902" yes it takes a village, but do you let the village idiot tell you what is good and what is bad?

  • Utah Dem Ogden, UT
    Feb. 25, 2013 12:39 p.m.

    So Eliason wants to address this head-on and dump it on school districts. Some commenters suggest schools, churches, scouting programs, etc., should do more. But when will parents and families actually start paying attention to their children and getting involved with their own children?
    And why do we need a law when a student talks about or attempts suicide, to inform the parents? And why do parents think a school district needs to cough-up money when their kids kills himself on school property?

  • Baccus0902 Leesburg, VA
    Feb. 25, 2013 12:19 p.m.

    My dear RED Shirt

    It takes a village!

  • RedShirt USS Enterprise, UT
    Feb. 25, 2013 11:40 a.m.

    So far, everybody is missing the bigger picture. What this article describes is a doctor giving asprin to a patient with a brain tumor. Only the outward symptoms are being treated.

    Yes bullying is a contributing factor, but what is going on that has made bullying more socially acceptable. Shouldn't that behaviour be such that if a parent found out that their child was engaged in it that the parents would stop it? Why are we allowing the government to defend our children from the evils of the world when we should be doing that ourselves? Since when is evil behavior acceptable?

    Finally, ask yourself this. How can any government legislate changes to society?

  • Baccus0902 Leesburg, VA
    Feb. 25, 2013 10:53 a.m.

    @ amazondoc 9:33

    Thank you for your comment. Unfortunately, as usual people don't want to talk about the elephant in the room.

    I regret the immediate association of suicide with "mental illness". Sometimes the correlation exist some time it doesn't.

    Many teenagers feel they are not up to the expectations of their parents or other significant people in their lives.

    Many times teenagers (heterosexual & homosexual) live perfect "normal lives" until their heart gets broken. Sometimes they do not know how to reconcile a premature sexual encounter with nothing else than a mortal sin and family and church dissapointment.

    Regardless the reason, suicide is regrettable and we as the community needs to attempt to find the Why? and have a good look at ourselves.

    This subject is painful and doesn't matter what we say or do. When a suicide takes place we somehow feel we have failed and perhaps we have.

  • luv2organize Gainesville, VA
    Feb. 25, 2013 10:13 a.m.

    When my son started pulling his hair out (trichotillomania) we went to a child psychiatrist and he immediately wanted to drug my child with heavy duty drugs. He was only 10. This article says "We have a huge gaping hole in the center of our state where there are zero child psychiatrists." It's been my experience that a psychologist might be better suited to help our children then a psychiatrist that wants to prescribe drugs. With drugs their are always side effects - good and bad - and shouldn't be taken lightly especially when administering to children. I do give kuods to Mr. Hudnall for all he has done.

  • Say No to BO Mapleton, UT
    Feb. 25, 2013 10:06 a.m.

    Suicide has always been among us.
    We ought to get some independent data about any spike in the problem.
    More importantly, we need to get some independent data about the effectiveness of these programs.
    And perhaps most important of all, who seriously believes that our legislators and school administrators can fix he problem. Our "village" mentality has made us dependent on an ever-growing government, but we would be hard-pressed to find that their solutions to our social problems have actually worked.
    Sometimes family and community are better than THE STATE.

  • Red Salt Lake City, UT
    Feb. 25, 2013 10:02 a.m.

    Everybody pretending that their life is perfect and then judging others is causing a gap in reality that is making life hard for those people struggling.

    I encourage everyone to be more open, honest, and real. Stop pretending you are so cool and covering up your vulnerabilities. When you are real others can see that life is hard for everyone and they don't feel so bad.

    Also, don't buy into the lies of the media that make you feel bad about yourself unless you buy their product or look a certain way. It's a lie.

    We can all be the solution if we stop pretending to be better than others.

  • JoeBlow Far East USA, SC
    Feb. 25, 2013 9:52 a.m.

    "JoeBlow--try Ross Perot"

    Not unless you live in Texas. To get it on a national level, we need to look at NCLB.
    And, were you making a joke? You think students commit suicide because of school tests?
    All states have standardized tests. Hard to use that as a scapegoat for Utah's high suicide rate.

    Maybe, just maybe it is the overbearing pressure that is thrust upon utah teens concerning Religion.

    I understand how strongly many LDS feel about Religion. And I can understand the disappointment when a child chooses a different religious path (or no religious path at all).

    I can also just imagine (and have seen some of it first hand) the pressure to conform Religiously.

    One absolutely must look at the Religious pressure as a possible reason why Utah has higher than normal teen suicide rates.

  • amazondoc USA, TN
    Feb. 25, 2013 9:33 a.m.

    A government survey published in 1989, called Report of the Secretary's Task Force on Youth Suicide, found that LGBT teens are four times more likely to try to kill themselves than straight teens. Another study, published in 2011 in the journal Pediatrics, found that they were five times more likely to attempt suicide. LGBT teens are also much more likely to suffer from school bullying -- and it is also known from these and other studies that the supportiveness of the family environment to these LGBT kids can have a strong effect on whether they try to kill themselves or not.

    Is it any wonder, then, that a state which so widely condemns homosexuality should have such a high teen suicide rate?

    Of course homosexuality is not by any means the only reason for kids to kill themselves. But it's an important factor, and it needs to be considered in any suicide-prevention efforts.

    Don't condemn these kids. Love them.

  • Aggielove Cache county, USA
    Feb. 25, 2013 9:19 a.m.

    I'm Mormon, and I'm active. I believe in Christ. I follow everything.
    But, the self rightish folks in this church is WAY out of control.
    Top to bottom, rich or poor, there are judgmental folks in every subset of this gospel.
    The pressure kids feel is causing them to kill themselves.
    Is this a sign of weakness, maybe.
    But judging is nuts folks.
    Seek humility.

  • Aggielove Cache county, USA
    Feb. 25, 2013 8:56 a.m.

    I think the church should tackle this issue head on.
    Btw. Taking guns away helps? Does that mean we take away cliffs, and knives, and cars, and rope, and pills?

  • raybies Layton, UT
    Feb. 25, 2013 8:47 a.m.

    I believe in order to be effective, suicide prevention programs can't just include the leaders, administrators or the teachers--or even parents, though they are often more clued in than school officials. I know of one young man who sought help from his high school administrators for bullying, and was treated as if he were Dylan Klebold, rather than getting him out of the situation, he was put back into the classroom where his peers continued to bully him until he struck a studen and was ousted from the school system.

    This training MUST INCLUDE TEENS. More often than not, the ones struggling do so because administrators don't respond correctly to the situation. They blame the victims. They don't have the resources to separate or ammeliorate student relations, and in the end, they only breed distrust and a sense of despair in the kids seeking help.

    Often those bullied feel they have no way out. Administration SHOULD know better, but they don't, and whatever weak attempts for help, didn't help.

    PS. This has nothing to do with the LDS... that's just a troll.

  • Shazandra Bakersfield, CA
    Feb. 25, 2013 8:40 a.m.

    I grew up in a happy and wonderful Mormon home. I know exactly what the church offers and I did not blame its teachings or its people per se, Bro Worf.

    I also attended Ricks and BYU at the height of the drugged 60' and 70's. I know exactly what typical Mormon college kids struggled with. My campus Bishop took his own life in 1971, a gorgeous, generous man with a gorgeous, fabulous wife and kids. No one had a clue.

    I also know the down-side of the over-achievers AND the under-achievers. I refuse to ignore facts and constantly look for blame away from any possible source. Save your lecture and let's pray and work together for solutions in our imperfect world until The Perfect returns. We all are on the same side in this, and to our benefit, we all know Jesus is/has the Only answers.

  • slgs5aggie Cedar City, UT
    Feb. 25, 2013 8:25 a.m.

    Dear Truthseekeer, I must tell you that your statement "The majority of people who unsuccessfully attempt suicide the first time don't attempt suicide again", is Horrible inaccurate. In fact the opposite is true. If a person has tried once, the chances of a repeat attempt are increased dramatically. In fact, when teaching suicide prevention, it is taught that previous attempts are an increased risk factor.

  • OnlytheCross Bakersfield, CA
    Feb. 25, 2013 8:25 a.m.

    I agree, BrentBot. It would be interesting to see if involvement in positive programs help keep this tragedy lower.

    As a former Mormon, I know the hard work and dedicated effort of church and family that is invested in family life. But I have been shocked at the high LDS suicide rate in Utah for many years now. My large, extended LDS family live in Utah and Idaho, and many are in the medical field. Their reports of this epidemic are alarming, yet awareness has not lowered the problem significantly.

    I would personally be interested in what the ratio of LDS:Evangelical suicides is. It may not be a factor, but my last 30 years as a born-again Christian has exposed me to a far happier, more secure group of both adults and teens. There is less pressure to suceed, perform or conform that is immediately evident when you exit intense, "active" LDS life.

    I do not want to conjur up faux statistics or reasons. It is just a search to see if there any helpful programs or de-programming that might offer insights.

  • worf Mcallen, TX
    Feb. 25, 2013 8:22 a.m.

    Shazandra--we don't live in a perfect world, and the church does not take away the freedom of choice. It is tragic.

  • Shazandra Bakersfield, CA
    Feb. 25, 2013 8:06 a.m.

    Clearly Mormonism has not accomished the success its founders hoped for. Nor what many dedicated parents and social structures invest their lives in. This is no disparagement on the many good things the religion offers, but it is well past time to seek better prevention. Don't sugar-coat it or look for a BSA salvation message.

    Obviously there are many factors, but Utah has held the nation's highest suicide rates in all categories since the early '80's.

    I hope and pray that Utah's leaders find solutions. You have my support. Two of my promising LDS cousins took their lives several years ago. No rhyme or reason, different sides of the family. One had a temple marriage, was abused by her RM husband, and fell into 3 other non-LDS marriages with a child from each. Shot herself at age 35. The other was an accomplished ER nurse, a loving and beautiful aunt, engaged to a wonderful RM, and had recently taken some medication for a newly diagnosed bi-polar condition. She uncharacteristically hung herself in the family garage.

    No guns, no rationale; just tragedy.

  • worf Mcallen, TX
    Feb. 25, 2013 8:05 a.m.

    JoeBlow--try Ross Perot

  • Ernest T. Bass Bountiful, UT
    Feb. 25, 2013 7:56 a.m.

    The church could do a LOT to help this.

  • JoeBlow Far East USA, SC
    Feb. 25, 2013 5:48 a.m.

    "if parents simply removed the guns from their homes"

    How about a gun safe instead? Or a trigger lock at a minimum. With gun ownership comes a responsibility. How refreshing would it be if gun owners were the first to condemn those who did not take proper precautions concerning guns.

    No one under 18 should have unsupervised access to guns. LOCK up your guns.


    "One cause could be standardized testing."

    I thought we were supposed to stop blaming Bush.

  • BrentBot Salt Lake City, UT
    Feb. 25, 2013 4:09 a.m.

    I would like to see the statistics on suicide rates for teens in various categories. For example, those active in Scout troops, those active in Priesthood Quorums or church groups, etc. versus those who have no group affiliation to bolster self-esteem.

  • worf Mcallen, TX
    Feb. 24, 2013 7:07 p.m.

    One cause could be standardized testing.

  • Truthseeker SLO, CA
    Feb. 24, 2013 6:38 p.m.

    Many lives could be saved if parents simply removed the guns from their homes. Guns are almost always lethal when used to commit suicide. Other means of committing suicide not as much. The majority of people who unsuccessfully attempt suicide the first time don't attempt suicide again.