No one knows why, but statistics show that suicide rates in the Rocky Mountain communities from Montana to New Mexico rank among the highest in the nation. Utah is no exception. In 2011 the state had the seventh-highest suicide rate in the United States.
Unfortunately, Summit County is experiencing the same trend. In the last five years the number of suicides has jumped from five to nine. And 2014 doesn't seem to be offering any respite. In separate incidents, three individuals committed suicide over the last month a high school student, an adult man and an adult woman.
In each case, families and friends are devastated and left wondering what they could have done to avert the tragedies. As a community, we are asking the same questions.
The best we can do is to move forward with a commitment to be more observant, better informed about available resources and prepared to steer someone in crisis toward professionals who can help.
Several local agencies are already taking proactive measures to coordinate services within the community. Local law enforcement officials are brushing up on crisis intervention training and the county health department is working to interconnect and reinforce existing networks.
Valley Mental Health, a private, nonprofit agency that provides services through a contract with Summit County, is already taking the lead on suicide prevention. The organization staffs a 24/7 crisis hotline and offers support to police, physicians, schools and other agencies when asked. And in response to concerns about Utah's high suicide rate, the regional office in Park City is now offering a suicide intervention program for regular members of the community. Churches, PTAs and other groups can arrange a QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) Training session that helps break down the fear of helping a person who is in crisis.
The professionals at Valley Mental Health say many factors can lead a person to feeling isolated and hopeless. Among them depression, trauma, substance abuse, a relationship crisis, losing a job or failing in school. Their goal is to help individuals deal with those triggers and reconnect with the community. We can help. And we should suicide is reportedly the second leading cause of death for youths ages 10-17. It affects both men and women and is also a source of concern among senior citizens.
Park City and Summit County residents have a reputation for facing tough issues and this one merits their attention. For more information or to attend a QPR training session call Valley Mental Health, 435-649-8347.