CDC Data Prompts Closer Look At Utah Suicide Rate


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Every day, two teenagers are treated for suicide attempts in Utah.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control, the youth suicide rate in Utah is much higher than the national average.

The rate has increased so much that the CDC issued a special report this year to look deeper into the issue.

The state's suicide rate among young adults ages 10 to 17 more than doubled at an annual clip nearly four times faster than the national average from 2011-2015. 

In all, 150 youths died by suicide over that five year period. 

The study tried to determine further data about these suicides and what puts young people at a higher risk for suicidal thoughts and acting on those thoughts.

“The research more than discovering new risk factors it reinforced what we knew about risk factors,” said Kim Meyers, the suicide prevention coordinator for Utah Department of Human Services.

She said the risk factors include alcohol and drug use, family conflict, relationship problems and mental health crisis. However, one new factor was a large percentage of kids who had tried to commit suicide or actually did commit suicide had just had some kind of technology restriction.

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“It does beg the question of what do we know about our relationship to technology and how it relates to our mental health and what else do we need to know,” she said.

Many people have pointed to the dominant religion in Utah, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and its attitude and policies on gay and lesbian members as a contributing factor in the spike in suicide deaths.

Meyers said the CDC report gave them some insight into that, but in reality they could only find the sexual orientation of a third of the young people who actually died by suicide and of those only 15 percent identified as LGBTQ. 

That information gap is being addressed with a new position in the Dept. of Human Services. That person will talk to family, friends, teachers and anyone else connected to the deceased person to find out some of the missing information.

Meyers understands the report in some instances brought up more questions than answers, but she believes it is a first step towards really addressing the problem.

“It’s really important to be shining a light on it. I think that this initial look was one of the first times we had that kind of data. It was really good to see the beginning of a better understanding."


Kim Meyers, suicide prevention coordinator, Utah Department of Human Services

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