Did you know that Utah teens commit suicide at a rate greater than the national average?
Officials in Provo mobilized in response to the grim statistics, and their prevention efforts are being met with great success. Greg Hudnall is an associate superintendent at Provo School District, and the executive director of the Utah County HOPE Task Force, a group dedicated to suicide prevention in Utah County. Hudnall started the organization after Sergeant Duvall with the Provo Police Department asked him to help identify the body of a 14-year-old boy who completed suicide in his neighborhood.
The Provo District has about 13,000 students, and they averaged one youth suicide each year until 2005 when Hudnall’s group began implementing education programs.
Since 2005 there has not been one recorded suicide in their school district.
The group’s education model is based on the national guidelines and goals for prevention issued by the United States Surgeon General, which include:
Goal 1: Promote awareness that suicide is a public health problem that is preventable.
Goal 2: Develop broad-based support for suicide prevention.
Goal 3: Develop and implement strategies to reduce the stigma associated with being a consumer of mental health, substance abuse, and suicide prevention services.
Goal 4: Develop and implement suicide prevention programs.
Goal 5: Promote efforts to reduce access to lethal means and methods of self-harm.
Goal 6: Implement training for recognition of at-risk behavior and delivery of effective treatment.
Goal 7: Develop and promote effective clinical and professional practices.
Goal 8: Improve access to and community linkages with mental health and substance abuse services.
Goal 9: Improve reporting and portrayals of suicidal behavior in the entertainment and news media.
Goal 10: Promote and support research on suicide and suicide prevention.
Goal 11: Improve and expand surveillance systems.
Hudnall will travel to Pleasant Grove today to talk with the community about suicide prevention (“A Night of Hope” Monday at 6:30 p.m. at Pleasant Grove Junior High School, 810 N. 100 East. For more information, call 801-374-4802).
Pleasant Grove has lost two students to suicide this year, but Hudnall thinks the strategies of HOPE can lower rates in other Utah cities like they did for Provo. Hudnall told Ray Parker with the Salt Lake Tribune that one of the simplest steps toward prevention is that “Parents shouldn’t avoid talking about suicide.”
If you are interested in information on prevention, intervention, and/or postvention, the Hope 4 Utah site provides local and national resources, including links to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255).