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Utah Youth Suicides Jump 141 Percent

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According to a Utah Department of Health report released on Nov. 30, youth suicides in the state jumped 141 percent between 2011 and 2015 -- nearly four times faster than the national average.

Calling it an "urgent public health problem," the department urges the state to do more such as using more "science-based" programs proven to work, reports The Salt Lake Tribune.

"I hope we do a more rigorous evaluation, and identify what’s not working," Mike Friedrichs, an epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health said of the state’s prevention programs.

According to the report, Utah needs to increase access to evidence-based mental health care while implementing data-backed prevention programs.

The department also advises the state work to help young people feel connected to their families, schools and communities.

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But it's not just the government that could do more. Taryn Aiken Hiatt, regional director for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, encouraged individuals to participate in suicide prevention training and awareness efforts.

Hiatt, who herself made multiple suicide attempts as a teenager, also urges Utah residents to reach out when they see somebody suffering.

"It's all about connection," she said, reports Deseret News. "We have got to connect as human beings and be willing to sit with people in those dark moments. Our brains get sick, but here's the beautiful part: They can also get better."

Working with the CDC to collect the data, authorities found ethnic and sexual minorities are particularly susceptible.

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While girls were at a greater risk of of suicide ideation, 78 percent of those youth who killed themselves between 2011 and 2015 were boys.

Others at increased risk of suicidal thoughts or attempts include drug users, young people bullied at school or online, early high school students and youth with "low parental education."

The report also found those immersed in "supportive social environments" were relatively immune.

"Supportive social environments were found to be protective for suicide ideation and attempts," the report says. "Supportive social environments are characterized by ones in which youth feel involved, valued and able to ask for and receive help when they need it."

Religious youth were also less likely to attempt suicide.

"It seems like religion was a protective factor," he said. "But we don’t know a lot of details about that. It could be a protective factor for those who feel included in their religion -- but not for those who don’t. We don’t know that."

Those who have suicidal thoughts can call the 24-Hour National Suicide Prevention Hotline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255). 

Sources: Utah Department Of HealthThe Salt Lake Tribune, Deseret News / Featured Image: Pixabay / Embedded Images: TUB/Wikipedia Commons, Jkinsocal/Wikipedia Commons

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