According to the Utah Department of Health, suicide is the second leading cause of death for kids between the ages of 10 and 17, just behind auto accidents. More 22,000 Utah youth say they “seriously considered” attempting suicide.
Sadly, Utah is also ranked fifth in the nation for youth suicide deaths. In the average 30-child classroom, it is estimated that eight youth feel sad or hopeless, four have seriously considered suicide and made a plan, two have attempted suicide at least once, and one will have needed medical treatment for attempting suicide. The Health Department also gives the chilling statistic that seven out of ten attempts are made by girls, but seven out of ten suicide deaths are from boys. According to Hope4Utah, In 2010, there were 70 youth suicide deaths in Utah, a suicide rate of 15.6 per 100,000 kids. There were at least 18 youths who had taken their own lives in 2013 as of April.
Utah also sits in the middle of the so-called “suicide belt.” This phenomenon has been noted by think-tanks, talk shows, universities, and the media. For some reason, the Intermountain West experiences higher than average rates of suicide among all ages. Though many are attempting to discover why Utah sits in the heart of the suicide belt, one thing is clear: something needs to be done.
To help combat this epidemic, Representative Steve Eliason (Republican – Sandy), is proposing HB 23 – Suicide Prevention Revisions.
The bill, if it were to pass, would allow any school employee to involve themselves if they feel that that a student has suicidal thoughts, thoughts of self-harm, or thoughts of harming others, and assist in directing those students to services that may help prevent the action to take place. Parents would also be involved in the process, so that they may become aware of potential issues. The legislation would also require schools to develop suicide prevention programs that will aid employees in identifying students at risk and set up intervention policies before the start of the 2014-15 school year.
This bill could provide some legal cover for those administrators and school employees that do intervene, as it shows that the official policy of the state would be that teachers, administrators, and staff are encouraged to prevent youth suicide if possible. However, there is not any specific language that would prevent school employees from some form of liability outright.
Suicide is a silent epidemic that is uncomfortable to talk about—and teenage suicide can be pushed down by communities that don’t want to confront the issues surrounding suicide. Eliason’s bill will not stop all suicides from happening, but it does appear to be a step in the right direction.
To contact Representative Eliason, click here or call 801-673-4748.
Impact on Average Utahn:
High Impact 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 No Impact
Need for Legislation:
Necessary 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 Unnecessary
Sound Legislation 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 Clunker