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South Valley Journal

Suicide Awareness trends and insight

Mar 16, 2020 02:16PM ● By Kirk Bradford

By Kirk Bradford | [email protected]

Do you know the risk factors and signs to identify if your loved one is self-harming as having suicidal ideations?

Dr. Dan Reidenberg is the executive director of Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, or referred to as S.A.VE. He also serves on the National Association of Suicide Awareness.

He is also a keynote speaker on suicide in the U.S. In one of his most recent videos, he decided to put online, Reidenberg spoke about the influence of media in general—movies, TV and the internet, even streaming services such as Netflix.

“When you look at the characters we see in media now, they are being intertwined with mental health issues, suicide issues, chemical issues and even death by suicide in these stories,” he said. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s a major motion picture of the Netflix series like ‘13 Reasons Why.’”

The Netflix show “13 Reasons Why” was associated with a 28.9% increase in suicide rates among U.S. youth ages 10–17 in the month (April 2017) following the show’s release. This was after accounting for ongoing trends in suicide rates, according to a study published in Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

When you consider the numbers on Utah’s suicide rates, they are much higher than the national average. Suicide is the leading cause of death among age groups 10–24. The Associated Press recently published an article that suggests that number may even be much higher.

According to the AP, Utah’s number of drug overdose suicides has potentially been underreported by 33%, reported the study. An article in the Journal of Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior said that the AP study looked at 2,665 overdose deaths that occurred in Utah.

Paul Nestadt, one of the paper’s authors, says the nation’s opioid epidemic has troubled suicide classification across the nation saying, “If you work in mental health, it is pretty clear there is a lot of overlap in the symptoms of someone who is using opiates and someone who may be suicidal.”

State health officials said roughly 630 Utahns die from suicide, and about 4,570 attempted suicide every year.If the new study is correct, that rate could be significantly higher.

Michael Staley is a psychological autopsy examiner and suicide prevention research coordinator. When asked about the higher numbers in Utah and if the data could or would show higher numbers in 2019 including the overlap of drug related suicides, Staley provided some interesting information.

“I'm working with VIPP (Violence & Injury Prevention Program) to get their table updated to include preliminary 2019 numbers,” he said. “The 2018 data on the webpage is the most current official mortality data. Preliminary 2019 data is, well preliminary, which means that it could change, particularly as the OME determines cause and manner of death for cases that required additional investigation. Typically, mortality data is fairly unreliable until 90 days. While it's possible that the claims are true (Utah has a rate of suicide involving an opioid) at a rate higher than other states, I've never seen any evidence of that. I'm looking into that and hopefully will get an answer soon.”

Utah’s rate of undetermined deaths is double the national rate, with the majority of those undetermined deaths caused by poisoning or drug overdoses.

Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, spoke to media about a bill he is moving forward,

“Schools have offered vision and hearing screenings for decades, notifying parents of problems and referring them to resources,” he said.

Salt Lake City College, Brigham Young University and the University of Utah have already started offering various sources of counseling for students as well as resources for survivors. They even offer some of the crucial courses to address issues that many don’t talk about following the suicide of someone close to them.

Because suicide is a leading cause of death for youth ages 10–24, and symptoms of some mental illnesses manifest during youth, it makes sense to implement screenings that can improve youths’ mental health and potentially save lives, Eliason said.

“The majority of mental health disorders manifest themselves during the teenage years,” he said. “When caught early, these conditions can be fairly easily treated and addressed, especially if they’re caught early on.”

The bill is still being edited and not yet released to the public, but the proposal would require the Utah State Board of Education and State Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health to select a tool or type of screening tool to be administered once per year to each student.

“It seems odd that for the condition that is the largest driver behind the leading cause of death for school-aged children that we have no screening,” Eliason said.

Riverton City leaders have already started to address this issue with their annual event. Last month the “Hope Walk” took place with the support of high school students, local residents and Salt Lake County politicians. Everyone on hand expressed his or her desire to support the message of hope and let those who are struggling know they are not alone.

Hundreds walked together in Riverton to raise awareness and show support for suicide prevention.

The Riverton Suicide Awareness Workshop will be on the third Thursday of each month at fire station 124 (12662 South 1300 West). If you are someone you know is struggling, seek help. You can find  many resources through your middle school, high school or college counselor.

You can also visit www.SPRC.org, which you can easily remember for the acronym Suicide Prevention Resource Center. It will also take you to the entire statewide list of Suicide Prevention resources and contacts.

If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or just feeling down, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). It is confidential and anonymous. Everyone needs to know it’s OK to struggle, but nobody has to struggle alone.