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Utah Suicide Rate Decreases for First Time in Over a Decade

November 15, 2019

For the first time in over a decade, Utah’s suicide rate fell slightly in 2019, according to the fiscal year 2019 report of State Suicide Prevention Programs by the state Division of Mental Health and Substance Abuse. This decrease means that we are doing something right, but the work isn’t done. Now is the time to increase our efforts.

According to the report, the suicide rates dropped from 22.7 to 22.2. “The decrease is not statistically significant nor does it represent a trend change, however, it is worth noting given the year-over-year increase for many years,” said the report. Suicide remains a leading cause of death in the State of Utah. An average of 592 Utahns die by suicide each year, and an average of 4,538 Utahns attempt suicide.

Below is an excerpt from an article written by Marjorie Cortez in the Deseret News: After decade of increases, Utah’s suicide rate dropped slightly in 2018, report says.

At first glimpse, there was a lot of excitement, even tears, when the 2018 data indicated Utah’s suicide rate had not increased over the previous year, said Michael Staley, with the Utah Office of the Medical Examiner.

“Then there was this moment of pause, where we kind of had to look around and say, ‘But what does this mean?’

“I think that is so important to remind folks this is not the time to pack our bags and go home and call this a win. This is the time to double down on what we’re doing because there’s evidence here, even though it’s kind of arbitrary and not causal, but there seems to be some suggestion here that what we’re doing is working,” said Staley, who coordinates suicide prevention research.

Barry Rose, crisis services manager for the University Neuropsychiatric Institute, said the slight decrease “at least indicates we’re on the right track and we’ve made some investments that are paying off.”

Reducing suicide deaths “was really our first major goal, not that our group here is the reason this happened, but we would like to think we were part of it. I think all of us collectively, our goal as the state, county mental health division and everyone involved, is just to see we could stop it from increasing, at least to level off, and continue to work toward decreasing those numbers,” he said.

Much work remains, Staley said.

Suicide is the seventh-leading cause of death in Utah, and the suicide rates in the Rocky Mountain states lead the nation. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Utah’s suicide rate ranks sixth nationally. Montana has the highest rate followed by Alaska, Wyoming, New Mexico and Idaho, according to the foundation.

The most recent data says 6,039 Utahns were seen in emergency departments for suicide attempts, according to 2014 numbers, and 2,314 Utahns were hospitalized for self-inflicted injuries including suicide attempts.

The Division of Mental Health and Substance Abuse report also notes that self-reported suicide attempts decreased from 7.1% to 6.9% from 2017 to 2019 after multiple years with increases.

Utilization of the SafeUT app, which provides 24/7 real-time crisis intervention for youths, is also growing. In the month of October, the app received 3,700 tips and chats.

Suicide prevention starts with each of us. Download the SafeUT app, reach out to those around you, listen without prejudice, and offer support.

If you or someone you know is struggling and/or having thoughts of suicide, please reach out. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text the Crisis Text Line (text HELLO to 741741), or message a trained crisis counselor through the SafeUT app. These support lines are available 24/7, 365 days a year.

The Utah Attorney General’s Office is proud to partner with organizations such as the Jason Foundation, the SafeUT Commission, the University Neuropsychiatric Institute (UNI), and Life’s Worth Living Foundation. These organizations help raise awareness of the prevalence of suicide in the State of Utah and provide resources and education on suicide prevention.

Far More Than Just an App

November 8, 2019

The following article was originally published in the Fall 2019 Silicon Slopes Magazine.

SafeUT is far more than an app; it is a mental health support system that acts to provide professional help for youth in crisis. The app is a free statewide service providing real-time crisis intervention to Utah’s students, parents, and educators.

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Crisis help can be provided through texting, which factors into SafeUT’s success with youth more comfortable texting than talking on a phone. Use is 100% confidential, and crisis line counselors do not inquire about identifying information except in emergency situations. SafeUT has been recognized nationwide for its effectiveness in saving lives and de-escalating potential school incidents.

SafeUT allows students to open a two-way messaging service with licensed clinicians, call a crisis counselor directly, or submit confidential tips to school administrators on bullying, threats, violence, etc. The app is staffed by trained crisis counselors at the University Neuropsychiatric Institute (UNI) 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

The program was developed with funding from the Utah State Legislature in collaboration with the Utah Attorney General’s Office, the University Neuropsychiatric Institute (UNI) and U of U Health, the Utah State Board of Education, and the Utah Anti-Bullying Coalition.

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Enrolled schools are listed within the SafeUT app and school administrators are trained to handle submitted tips received through the app. At the end of the 2018-2019 academic school year, 81.73% of all Utah K-12 schools and Universities (including public, private, and charter) have been enrolled in SafeUT. All tips submitted through the app are immediately reviewed by UNI staff. Non-urgent tips are sent daily to the appropriate school administrators, and tips of a more threatening nature (including violence or planned school attacks) are triaged by crisis counselors who may involve law enforcement and administrators to quickly resolve the crisis. During the 2018-2019 academic school year, the SafeUT app received tips about 245 unique potential school threats, which includes reports of explosives, guns, knives, and planned school attacks.

“Since adopting SafeUT in our school, we have not had a student take their own life in over 3 years, I credit SafeUT with that amazing statistic.” – Brian McGill, Principal at Alta High School

PLANS FOR EXPANSION

In 2018, SafeUT expanded to Utah higher education institutions and Utah technical colleges. In 2019, there are plans to expand services to the Utah National Guard and the The SafeUT Commission is currently working with several states to implement similar programs.

University of Utah Health Plans is a proud partner and advocate for the SafeUT program. SafeUT is a phenomenal example of how mental health care is all about meeting those in crisis right where they are.

“Removing the stigma surrounding mental health care by providing better access to mental health professionals and resources is a main priority for us now and in the future. As part of this initiative, we will be the new behavioral health plan provider for Summit County, UT with plans to expand into other counties in 2020.” – Russell Vinik MD, Chief Medical Officer, U of U Health Plans

A HUNDRED THANK YOU’S

“A young LGBTQ+ student came to our booth and whispered to me, ‘Do you actually work with SafeUT or are you a volunteer?’ I responded that I do work here and he continued to tear up and tell me, “Thank you, thank you, thank you, a hundred thank you’s” and proceeded to hug me and continue to thank me. He said he used the app when he was at his lowest and thanks to our advice and resources he has been able to get help and support.” – A SafeUT Worker

Read the article in the 2019 issue of Silicon Slopes Magazine here.

Choose Kindness, Acceptance, Inclusion: National Bullying Prevention Month

October 18, 2018

This month we observe National Bullying Prevention Month. The Utah Attorney General’s Office urges Utahns to choose kindness, acceptance, and inclusion.

Bullying impacts children of all ages. According to the National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics, up to a third of students in the United States report being bullied at school. Additionally, in an increasingly digital age, cyberbullying has become a significant problem.

Bullying can have long-lasting, detrimental effects on a child’s mental and physical health. A child who is bullied is more likely to experience depression and anxiety, decreased academic achievement, substance abuse, and suicide.

Bullying prevention starts with you. Be kind to others and be proactive in shifting the prevalence of bullying in our schools and communities. Bullying is a behavioral style which must be – and can be – addressed through education and support.

Encourage children to speak to a trusted adult if they are bullied or see others being bullied. Teach children to stand appropriately to kids who are bullying others. Most importantly, teach kindness and urge children to reach out to others who are being bullied.

Below are some additional resources to help prevent bullying:

Download the SafeUT App. This app, which the AG’s Office helped create, is available to students and parents and provides real-time help to youth through texting and a private space to submit tips about bullies in their schools. 

Utah Anti-Bullying Coalition is a local non-profit that provides training for students, parents, and educators. Their goal is to end bullying through kindness. 

Utah Parent Center provides information and resources to help parents better understand bullying, its impact, and strategies for prevention. 

Utah Legislation specifically addresses bullying in the state as well as requirements to educators about their role in creating bully-free environments.

If you see something, say something. Be kind and be part of the change. Preventing bullying starts with you.

Reach Out for National Suicide Prevention Month

September 27, 2019

During the month of September, we observe National Suicide Prevention Month. It is a time to unite to remember those we’ve lost to suicide, and to reaffirm commitments to work together to drive research, community engagement, and provide the necessary resources to help those in need. This month, the Utah Attorney General’s Office urges everyone to reach out to those around them, to connect, and to be compassionate.

Suicide is a complex, public health issue that affects every person in every community. Despite the strides Utah has made in addressing this crisis, suicide is still a leading cause of death in our state. An average of 592 Utahns die by suicide each year. Even more staggering, is the average of 4,538 Utahns that attempt suicide. These are your neighbors, brothers, sisters, spouses, friends, colleagues, and children. Engaging with and caring for one another is the key to end the stigma that so often comes with mental illness and suicidal thoughts.

Despite the tragic number of people who have reported thoughts of suicide, who have attempted suicide, and those who have lost their lives by suicide, the topic is still met with silence and shame. We urge you to reach out, listen without prejudice, and offer support.

Listed below are resources and organizations dedicated to shining light on suicide prevention. These organizations will help you learn to recognize warning signs and know what actions to take.

If you or someone you know is struggling and/or having thoughts of suicide, please reach out. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text the Crisis Text Line (text HELLO to 741741), or message a trained crisis counselor through the SafeUT app. These support lines are available 24/7, 365 days a year.

The Utah Attorney General’s Office is proud to partner with organizations such as the Jason Foundation, the SafeUT Commission, the University Neuropsychiatric Institute (UNI), and Life’s Worth Living Foundation. These organizations help raise awareness of the prevalence of suicide in the State of Utah and provide resources and education on suicide prevention.

L.E.T.S. Stay Safe – Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention Program

August 29, 2019

Today, the Utah Attorney General’s Office, Utah State Legislature, and Utah State Board of Education announced the launch of L.E.T.S. Stay Safe – a firearm safety and violence prevention program. L.E.T.S. stands for Leave it alone, Educate others, Tell an adult, and Share the threat.

During the 2016 Legislative Session, Senator Todd Weiler and Senator Dan McCay sponsored SB 43, a bill that directed the Utah Attorney General’s Office to produce a program that offers guidance and education to youth on the importance of firearm safety and reporting threats to schools. Together with the Utah Legislature, Utah State Board of Education, and partner law enforcement agencies, the Utah Attorney General’s Office produced L.E.T.S. Stay Safe.

This comprehensive educational program includes a video, PowerPoint presentation, posters, handouts, and lesson plans for educators, community leaders, and parents. The program will be offered to schools, youth groups, community organizations, educators, and parents, and is directed towards young people in grades 5-12. Firearms are common in Utah, and this program emphasizes what to do should young people come across a firearm in order to help save lives and reduce accidental deaths and injuries.

Watch the live stream of the press conference here.

Watch the L.E.T.S. Stay Safe Video here.

For more information on the program, go here.


Media coverage:

Fox 13: Utah AG’s Office Promotes Gun Safety with New Video For Utah Students

KSL: Utah Launches Gun Safety Campaign for Students Grades 5-12

ABC 4: Utah Launches Optional Gun Safety Program for Schools

Salt Lake Tribune: Utah Launches Firearms Safety Video for Schools, Confronting the ‘Reality That Guns Are Part of Our Society’

Daily Herald: Utah Launches Optional Gun Safety Program for Schools

St. George News: Utah Launches Optional Gun Safety Program for Schools

KUTV: Utah Launches Optional Gun Safety Program for Schools

Jackson Hole News: Utah Launches Optional Gun Safety Program for Schools

AGO & Partners Honored at Best of State

The Utah Attorney General’s office was thrilled to join with family and friends at the Best of State Awards Gala where we were honored to accept multiple awards in the Community Development category.

Click here for a complete list of the AG’s Best of State 2018 awards.

Additionally, the AG’s office was accompanied by DEA District-in-Charge Brian Besser and his wife, Juli, where he received the Best of State Public Safety Officer award due to his relentless work in combatting the opioid epidemic that has hit Utah both in the metro and rural areas.

John DeGrey and Barry Rose of the SafeUT Commission accepted the Best of State award for Web-Based Community Resource. SafeUT is an incredible app that has saved the lives of teens in Utah by making suicide prevention more effective by offering more resources and mental health support. The app has also helped prevent numerous school threats.

Jennie Taylor, widow of Major Brent Taylor, joined with Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes and his wife, Saysha, during the Gala. Unbeknownst to Jennie, Major Taylor had won the Best of State award for Meritorious Service. In addition, he was posthumously awarded the Best of State Statue (or the BOSS), which is given to the most outstanding medal winner in their division.

Major Taylor, who served as the North Ogden mayor, made the ultimate sacrifice while serving overseas, living and dying for his love of God, country, and family. We are so grateful for his service.

We also give our sincerest thanks to all those who gave their time and energy to help make our office the Best of State.


The Best of State Awards recognize outstanding individuals, organizations and businesses in Utah. More than 100 judges review the nominations and determine the winners based on achievement in the field of endeavor, innovation or creativity in approaches, techniques, methods or processes, and contribution to the quality of life in Utah.

Utah AG: Best of State 2018

The Utah Attorney General’s Office found itself the proud recipient of multiple Best of State awards this year. Those in the Utah AG’s office work hard to uphold the Constitution, enforce the law, and protect the interests of Utah and its people. Our sincere thanks to all those who give their time and energy to help make our office the Best of State.

The Best of State Awards recognize outstanding individuals, organizations and businesses in Utah. More than 100 judges review the nominations and determine the winners based on achievement in the field of endeavor, innovation or creativity in approaches, techniques, methods or processes, and contribution to the quality of life in Utah.

See below for a complete list of the AG’s Best of State 2018 awards.

Elected State Official: Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes

Military Personnel/Unit: Utah@EASE

Public Safety: Investigations Division, Utah AGO

Public Works: Utah Opioid Task Force

Public/Private Partnership: The Utah Children’s Justice Center Program

Publication: Utah AGO White Collar Crime Offender Registry

State Agency/Office: Utah Attorney General’s Office

Victim Advocacy: Attorney General Sean Reyes

Web-based Community Resource: The SafeUT App

The Utah AGO nominated DEA District-Agent-in-Charge Brian Besser for the following award due to his relentless work in combatting the opioid epidemic that has hit Utah both in the metro and rural areas. We are privileged to call him a partner, colleague, and friend.

Public Safety Officer: DEA District-Agent-in-Charge Brian Besser

Youth Advisors: Teens Changing the World

Monday, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes swore five teens into the Youth Advisory Committee during a ceremony held in their honor for all the tremendous work they have done in the last year.

Affectionately nicknamed the Teen Titans, these five teens have worked closely with organizations such as SafeUT, the Children’s Justice Centers Program, and the Utah Gun Safety Program where they attended focus groups, provided suggestions on how to make things more teen-friendly, and gave feedback on how to interact with teens to make them feel comfortable.

Additionally, during the holiday season in 2018, they assisted law enforcement in Operation Give Back, a day dedicated to identifying and taking care of families in need. The Teen Titans rode along with the Utah Attorney General’s investigators and other law enforcement in delivering gifts and encouraging the families visited.

The Youth Advisory Committee provides invaluable insights into ways organizations can identify with teens and streamline programs and apps to make them not only appealing to teens but also to make them more user-friendly to all age groups.

If you are interested in joining the Youth Advisory Committee, applications will be accepted soon. Look out on our social media and website for future notifications of available applications. More details will follow.

The SafeUT app: together we make a difference

Originally created in 2015 to address the rise of teen suicide in the state, the use of the SafeUT app continues to be an effective way for students to connect with someone who can help. In addition, the ability to send anonymous tips adds one more layer of safety to our schools.

The number of students reaching out increases every year and 2018 experienced the highest rate of use yet.

  • 534 potential school threat tips
  • 218 tips about students with guns
  • 175 tips about planned school attacks
  • 68 tips about “weapons”
  • 61 tips about knives
  • 12 tips about explosives

Additionally, between July of 2017 and October of 2018, clinicians responded to over 1,500 tips or conversations from students who were considering taking their own lives.

For more on the SafeUT app and its impact in Utah, check out Chris Jones’ article from KUTV: SafeUT app is saving lives daily; 1,500 tips on suicide contemplation in 15 months.

The SafeUT program was developed with funding from the Utah State Legislature in collaboration with the Utah Attorney General’s Office, Utah State Office of Education, Utah Anti-Bullying Coalition, and the University Neuropsychiatric Institute

The SafeUT App is a statewide service that provides real-time interactions straight from your smartphone. Licensed clinicians, from the University Neuropsychiatric Institute at the University of Utah Health, are available 24/7 to respond to all incoming chats, texts, and calls. They provide support and crisis counseling, suicide prevention, and referral services. Additionally, students can submit confidential tips to school administrators on bullying, threats, or violence. 

Visit https://healthcare.utah.edu/uni/safe-ut/ to learn more.

AG Reyes Urges SafeUT App Use & Announces New Features

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 16, 2018

 

UTAH ATTORNEY GENERAL SEAN REYES ENCOURAGES SAFEUT USE IN SCHOOLS,
INTRODUCES NEW FEATURES
SafeUT team averages 1,178 students chats per month

SALT LAKE CITY – Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes announced two new features of the SafeUT app and encouraged schools to enroll and participate in a proven resource that helps keep students and schools safe. The new features, just in time for the new academic school year, include a parent/educator button and access to services for higher education institutions.

“The statewide adoption and response to the SafeUT app has been incredibly successful and effective. But there are still some schools that haven’t integrated this lifesaving tool. If your school is not using this, please ask your school leaders to start. Your voice could save a life,” stated Attorney General Reyes. “Students facing all sorts of crises are reaching out for themselves or others and the app is working.”

“To ensure success, we must provide services that are current, relevant, and meeting the needs of the community,” AG Reyes continued. “By expanding SafeUT’s reach to institutions of higher learning, to parents, and to educators in both English and Spanish, we further empower those impacted by mental and behavioral health challenges. Our mission is to save Utahns, particularly youth, before it’s too late. We connect them to people who are available 24-7, who care for them, will fight for them, and lift them through their current struggles toward a healthier future.”

The SafeUT app, launched in 2016, was geared toward elementary, junior high, and high school students struggling with suicide, relationship difficulties, and a variety of other mental and behavioral health issues. Every public school district in Utah is enrolled, but not every school has taken advantage of the SafeUT app and its services. Eleven new schools enrolled in the SafeUT program for the upcoming school year, which means that 77% percent of K-12 schools in Utah are now utilizing the app.

School involvement is a critical step for schools to ensure real-time communication between crisis responders and school administration for quick action. The addition of the parent/educator button provides the opportunity for educators and parents to ask questions, find resources, and submit relevant information to help protect students and schools.

Adding higher education addresses two needs: 1) immediate support for college students who wrestle with similar mental and behavioral health issues, and 2) greater ability for college authorities to respond quickly to potential threats. These new features combined with current services, which now include Spanish capabilities, expand the program’s reach and effectiveness.

During the 2017-2018 school year, crisis counselors at the University Neuropsychiatric Institute fielded over 15,000 texts and over 7,000 tips. The most common topics of conversation were bullying, suicide, depression, cutting, and drugs. Below are last year’s numbers.

  • Chats/Texts
    • 15,313 chats
    • 1,178 average chats per month
    • 316,840 threads (back and forth interaction between a student and counselor)
    • 21 average threads per chat
  • Tips
    • 7,476 tips
    • 575 average tips per month
    • 23,023 threads per chat
    • 3 average threads per chat

The SafeUT program was developed with funding from the Utah State Legislature in collaboration with the Utah Office of the Attorney General, the University Neuropsychiatric Institute (UNI), the Utah State Office of Education, and the Utah Anti-Bullying Coalition.

# # #

 

NOTES:

  1. You can find out more about the SafeUT program here: https://healthcare.utah.edu/uni/programs/safe-ut-smartphone-app/#what. 
  2. The members of the SafeUT Commission include: Ric Cantrell, Utah Attorney General Chief of Staff; Lillian Tsosie-Jensen, Utah Public Education System; Spencer Jenkins, Utah System of Higher Education; Teresa Brechlin, Department of Health; Rep. Steven Eliason, Utah State House of Representatives; Sen. Daniel Thatcher, Utah State Senate; Barry Rose, University Neuropsychiatric Institute; Ammon Mauga, Law Enforcement and Emergency Response; Ruth Wilson, Utah Department of Human Services; Barbara Stallone, Community Member; Pam Hayes, Community Member; and Katherine Rhodes, Utah Attorney General Executive Assistant.
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