Utah has the 8th highest rate of youth suicide in the country. It has been steadily rising since 2011 and mental health experts in the state say it’s a crisis that can’t be ignored.
Cathy Davis is the suicide prevention specialist for Utah’s State Board of Education and she is well aware of the risks Utah's students face.
"Suicide is the leading cause of death for youth ages 10-17," says Davis.
She says her number one job is to educate. And that it’s all too common for family, friends and peers to feel blindsided by a suicide close to them.
“But then if you alert them as to what the warning signs are, they are more able in future circumstances to help out in a situation," Davis says.
Those warning signs include a history of depression or mental illness. Heightened anxiety. A general feeling of hopelessness. Youth who often talk about themselves as a burden to those in their lives.
Also, it’s important to understand this can affect anyone. Melissa Morales is a therapist in Salt Lake City. She says it’s wrong to have a stereotype in mind of who might be suicidal.
“I don’t see a lot of single parent homes," says Morales. "I see a lot of blended families and I do see a lot of nuclear families.”
Those include a lot of LDS families. Morales says it’s crucial that members of the Mormon community don’t believe they’re immune to the risk.
“I think they need to wake up and realize that this is a serious problem," says Morales. "Especially within in the church.”
Morales says that Utah has the resources to prevent suicide. It’s just a matter using them and better understanding the risk.
“I think having the conversation of what causes this and what are the interventions that we can provide in our community and in our homes is extremely important," says Morales.
One of those conversations will take place this Friday at Salt Lake City’s East High School. Senator Orrin Hatch has invited experts from across the state to discuss the risks facing Utah’s youth and what suicide prevention should look like moving forward.