Youth suicide prevention was the topic of a roundtable discussion at East High School in Salt Lake City Friday. The clearest takeaway was the need for a more effective crisis hotline.
The panel was Organized by Senator Orrin Hatch and included mental health experts along with state lawmakers. Like Representative Steve Eliason, who posed this question to the audience:
“If you know the number by heart the number to call for the suicide crisis line please raise your hand.”
Almost no hands went up. And this problem was addressed by nearly everyone who spoke, including Laura Warburton, who lost her daughter Hannah to suicide in 2014.
Warburton described Hannah’s last attempt to get help the day she died.
“She called up her therapist at McKay-Dee hospital and she got the secretary who refused to put her through," says Warburton. "And so that was her very last phone call.”
Warburton doesn’t know if Hannah would have called a crisis number. But she says it might have helped. And it only would have helped if it was a number that was easy to remember.
Utah State Senator Daniel Thatcher says this is an easy fix.
“It really is as simple as the state legislature designating an N11 number," says Thatcher
An N11 number is a 3-digit number like 911. There are really only 8 options and all of them are currently in use in Utah.
Thatcher argues that it’s more important to have a number to call in a moment of crisis than one to notify Salt Lake County about potholes.
"Something is going to have to give, somebody is going to have to swallow their pride," says Thatcher. "Somebody is going to have to work with us.”
Thatcher is sponsoring a bill that will come before state legislation this January. If passed, there could be one less roadblock between those considering suicide and the help they need.