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Herriman Journal

‘SafeUT’—more than a life-saving app, it’s a strategic vision for Utah, Salt Lake County

Nov 12, 2019 03:58PM ● By Jennifer J Johnson

Utah has the fifth-highest suicide rate in the country. How can we help? Familiarizing ourselves with suicide-prevention support outlets (see end of article) and accept, listen to, and help others’ cries for help with the same concern and lack of stigma as someone experiencing a heart attack or a broken limb. (Pexels)

By Jennifer J. Johnson | [email protected] 

September — Suicide Prevention Awareness month—is history.

The summer’s Zero-Suicide Summit is months old.

As we ease into the winter holidays, what is the state-of-the-state for suicide prevention here in Utah and in Salt Lake County?

“SafeUT,” the smartphone app designed to support teens experiencing suicidal thoughts or observing situations with peers, appears to not only be gaining traction as a downloadable app and a way to get immediate help for suicide prevention, but an overall descriptor for a state looking to become ever-healthier, ever-happier.

Salt Lake County ‘behind the 8-ball” when it comes to adult suicide prevention

This summer, the Salt Lake County Public Health Department was honored by the most prestigious municipal-healthcare association in the country for being the best large-scale health department.

In discussing the honor with City Journals, the executive director of public health for Salt Lake County indicated that suicide in men age 25 and older is a vulnerable Achilles’ heel for a county that others around the country, otherwise, look up to.

Salt Lake County’s Gary Edwards said the county is squarely “behind the 8-ball” when it comes to suicide prevention for that demographic.

With that assessment comes a tactical plan involving data-directed actions to fund, then provide localized prevention solutions.

Operation Stop Suicide--‘hopeful about what we can do’ for a SafeUT

Utah is, perennially, one of the top 10 states with the devastating impact of suicide. Most recently, the state was considered the state with the fifth-highest suicide rate in the country.

In spite of the concern, however, there is a great deal of optimism on the state and county level for productively, intentionally, collaboratively working to deliver an ever-healthier, ever-happier community.

“I got into suicide prevention in 2012,” shares Kim Myers, suicide prevention coordinator for the state’s Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health.

“We are far and away doing more than we have ever done. I am really hopeful about what we can [yet] do.”

Myers is chief architect of a coalition-developed 2017 strategic plan to stop suicide in the state.

The Utah Suicide Prevention Coalition comprises community members, suicide survivors, service providers, researchers and others dedicated to saving lives and advancing suicide-prevention efforts in Utah. 

Now, almost three years later, Myers says the state is focusing on three key areas.

Operation Stop Suicide relies on a delicate, interactive, synergistic blend of training, reducing and improving.

SafeUT relies on training parents and others to be empathetic, helpful coaches

Training nearly 70,000 people in the state to be “gatekeepers” responsible for tending to the well-being of others has been a key accomplishment on a statewide level.

This training, Myers says, reduces the stigma associated with suicidal thoughts or attempts.

Suicidal thoughts are cries for help and need to be treated with the same urgency and care as a heart attack victim crying for help or an athlete needing to have a fractured limb set. People need to feel comfortable expressing their situations, without judgment.

Myers credits Salt Lake County as being a key partner in this effort. Buoyed by a grant from the state, SLC has hired a suicide-prevention expert and has conducted significant gatekeeper training—especially for parents.

SafeUT relies on reducing access to lethal means

In addition to training, the state and county partners have focused on reducing access to lethal means, such as firearms.

“For most people, a crisis is quite acute—it comes on fast,” Myers explains. “The time the person is at highest risk—is a brief time.”

What does this boil down to? Here in the state of Utah, it’s coaching for gun users.

In Utah, firearms are the leading method of suicide

In 2017, concealed-carry permit classes started to include suicide-training messaging.

The message is stronger now. In 2019, every time a concealed permit is renewed, the individual must complete a suicide-training module.

Myers enthusiastically shares stories of proactive efforts from businesses like The Gun Vault in South Jordan and Sportsman’s Warehouse on a corporate level.

Partnerships like these have enabled the distribution of 200,000 cable-style gun locks throughout the state and promoted a $100 gun-safe rebate program.

SafeUT relies on improved training for those in need

This summer, a multi-faceted suicide coalition attended the Zero-Suicide Summit.

Zero-Suicide is a continuous improvement framework for improving quality care for individuals contemplating or trying to commit suicide.

Myers says the summit explored how the community can, proactively, become safer for those among us.

The conference included a jam-packed conference with physician, behavioral health, administrative and community tracks.

The clear message? Suicide prevention and a SafeUT requires everyone.

How to be a suicide-prevention superhero

The Suicide Prevention Coalition is open to the public and needs, quite literally, everyone on board. To learn more, check out the organization’s site.

SafeUT is a free, statewide crisis chat and tip line providing 24/7, real-time crisis intervention to youth through live chat and a confidential tip program — right from the smartphone. It can be installed from both Google and Apple app stores.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The website also offers chat.

The local UNI Crisis Line can be called at 801-587-3000.

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