Hope Lives: Preventing Teen Suicide

Video type: Full Episode

This timely KUED film on teen suicide in Utah highlights three stories — a promising young athlete who took his own life, a young man now in his late 20s who talks candidly about his suicide attempt as a teen, and a young transgender teen who also survived her suicide attempt with a reaffirmed desire to live.

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Utah’s suicide rate has always been higher than that of the rest of the nation. Among teens ages 10 to 17, the suicide rate has tripled in less than a decade. On average two Utah teens attempt to end their lives every day. It can be easy to lose hope given the current trends showing teen suicide rising rates of suicide in the state.

Their stories are intertwined with interviews with experts as well as the story of a peer Hope Squad at Lone Peak High School in Highland, Utah that has reduced suicide rates. Currently Hope4Utah has 180 hope squads in schools across the state with 5,000 school age students reaching out to help their peers everyday. In addition, the program has 500 Hope Squad advisors who are most often school counselors and teachers.

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The HOPE4UTAH program has succeeded in schools across the state by bringing the topic of suicide out of the shadows. Hope Squad members are taught that the stigma surrounding suicide prevents many people from talking about their own thoughts of suicide. When a fellow student approaches them, they listen and reassure the student. The Hope Squad member then gets their peer in contact with a trusted adult. The school has also employed a full-time social worker to ensure that all students have someone they can talk to who knows how to assess their needs and put them in touch with the right resources.

Students at Lone Peak High School discuss their involvement in the HOPE4UTAH program and the effect it has had on them personally and throughout the student body.

David Davis attempted to end his life after deciding he didn’t want to face the realities of adult life. “Instead of growing up, I decided to give up.” Davis had just experienced a series of very normal teenage events (his girlfriend broke up with him and he wrecked the family car) when he decided to jump off a building. After waking up in the hospital, Davis says he knew immediately that he wanted to live. His family got him the help he needed, and he has worked since for his family’s forgiveness and has tried to live a life of service in the community.

David Davis talks about his suicide attempt and his desire to live.

Utah is not alone in the higher rates of suicide. The rest of the Intermountain West experiences similar rates. While the dilemmas and pressures of growing up coupled with the fact that teens tend to be more emotional and more impulsive make some young people more vulnerable, researchers have speculated that altitude might play a role in causing higher rates of depressions and other mental health issues. Recent research at the University of Utah has confirmed a link to altitude. Dr. Perry Renshaw is now testing treatments he believes can radically reduce the region’s suicide rate.

Drs. Douglas Gray and Perry Renshaw discuss the Intermountain West’s high suicide rate and treatments that might reduce altitude related depression.

Reducing suicide rates, however, is complex. As Greg Hudnall, the founder of Hope4Utah, acknowledges, “it takes an entire community to save a child.” He encourages everyone to learn basic suicide prevent techniques and to be informed about mental health resources within one’s community. Please visit the links on this page to find out more about how you can help in the effort to reduce suicide within your community.

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Resource Packet

UTAH SUICIDE PREVENTION COALITION - The Utah Suicide Prevention Coalition is a partnership of community members, suicide survivors, service providers, researchers, and others dedicated to saving lives and advancing suicide prevention efforts in Utah. Visit Website

NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE - The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Since its inception, the Lifeline has engaged in a variety of initiatives to improve crisis services and advance suicide prevention. Visit Website

Additional Links:

Files: 
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PDF icon Hope Lives Resource Sheet.pdf97.21 KB

Articles:

ABOUT THE PRODUCERFrank Feldman is a local independent film producer and graduate of the University of Utah’s Film Studies program. His last film for KUED 'A Changing Harvest' looked at the disappearance of local family farms along the Wasatch Front. His work also includes 'Natural Family Values' which tells the story of one Utah town’s attempt to define marriage for its residents and 'Vapid Lovelies' which won the Spirit of Slamdance Award. Frank also produces and hosts “Thank God I’m Atheist" a weekly podcast on current events and politics.