Suicide Rates Prompt Crisis Line Discussion
Sep 29, 2016 03:00PM ● Published by Bryan Scott
By Aimee Winder Newton
No mother wants to hear her child speak the words “I want to die.” But for parents of children battling depression, that is a fear. And for me, it became a reality when one of my own children was struggling and needed help.
It was 10:30 p.m. one summer night when my son came to me and shared his thoughts of suicide. As a mother, I am so grateful that he was willing to speak up. But I didn’t know what to do or who to call. Mental illness is one of those “taboo” subjects in our culture, and we really need to change that. We also need to take seriously our teens crying out for help. My son is very brave and has allowed me to share his story so that others can get the help they need.
After this particular incidence, I learned that the University of Utah Neuropsychiatric Institute or “UNI” has a crisis line. This line is staffed with trained counselors 24/7. You can call anytime and have a live person answer the call. It is also anonymous. But how many of us know this phone number? I didn’t. This is why I am determined to see that we have a three-digit phone number that can be used to go directly to a crisis line statewide.
Across the state there are 19 different crisis lines, many with limited hours and staffing. This past month, I invited Missy Larsen, chief of staff for Attorney General Sean Reyes, and state Rep. Steve Eliason to present to our county council on this issue. They spoke of Utah’s suicide rate (5th highest in the nation), and discussed how suicide is now the number one killer of Utah teens. The rate of suicide by seniors is also climbing in Utah. These leaders, as well as state Senator Daniel Thatcher, have been involved in developing the SAFEUT app. Youth are able to report unsafe behavior at school or other behavioral health-related issues and get help.
We had several mayors and city officials present at our council meeting who expressed support for this initiative. Some tearfully shared stories of loved ones or city residents who have needed help. This truly is a crisis in our community.
I believe there is incredible consensus and support for establishing a statewide, dedicated, three-digit mental health crisis line to connect more Utahns with needed support. Our coalition is working with stakeholders and the FCC on this issue and will look at all numbers available and determine the best one that will fit these needs.
I know there are many people still struggling, both parents aching for their children and individuals grappling with these issues themselves. It is imperative that we prioritize solving this issue. We’ll be working hard in the coming weeks and months to find a solution. In the meantime, download the SAFEUT app on your smartphone. And in times of crisis you can always call 801.587.3000 to talk to a trained counselor in a free and confidential call.