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.
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.
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.