Due to a massive streak of suicides of children under age 18 in Utah, Governor Gary Herbert has commissioned a task force to address the state's youth suicide.
Governor Herbert said at a news conference Wednesday, "Even one is too many. We're to that point where we say this is an emergency." In 2017 alone, 44 children under the age of 18 committed suicide in the state which prompted the special response from the Governor.
Another troubling statistic puts Utah's youth suicide rate 141% higher than the national average and Governor Herbert says the time to act is now. The Governor convened a special task force of 14 people to be led by his own Lt. Governor, Spencer Cox, as well as Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy.
All have been proponents of suicide prevention in the Utah State Legislature. "We have lost far too many lives leading up to this present day," Rep. Eliason said. Eliason says he struggled with suicidal thoughts when he was a child. He was fighting back tears when he said, "I went through some dark times, sometimes that were very difficult. I was bullied as well. Those things impact us."
"I started to have those dark thoughts about the world might be a better place if I was not in it. Fortunately, I did not follow through on those thoughts. I assumed I was alone in that, that there was something wrong with me for having those thoughts," Rep. Eliason said.
The task force includes members of the community and political leaders from suicide prevention groups, medical professions, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and even the gay rights group Equality Utah.
Equality Utah executive director Troy Williams said, "LGBT youth are four times more likely to experience suicide ideation than their straight counterparts. Eight times more likely to experience suicide ideation, if they’re kicked out of their homes. I think it’s really powerful the state is coming together, to address this issue."
Rep. Eliason added, "One of the most important things you can do today to dramatically reduce the risk of your child dying by suicide is to lock and restrict your firearms in your home from unauthorized us." Governor Herbert was adamant that he expected action to be taken and announced the task force must submit a plan to him and Utah State Legislature by February 15.
<i>If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, help is available 24/7 by calling 1-800-273-TALK.</i>
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