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Suicide is a major public health problem in Utah. Overall, Utah males (31.8 per 100,000 population) had a significantly higher suicide rate compared to Utah females (8.3 per 100,000 population). Approximately 3 out of every 4 suicide deaths in Utah are males. However, Utah females had significantly higher ED visit and hospitalization rates for suicide attempts compared to Utah males. Males were more likely than females to have had a crisis within 2 weeks of their death such as intimate partner problems, job problems, school problems and criminal problems. Females were more likely to have a diagnosed mental illness, be receiving current mental illness treatment, have a history of mental illness treatment, have left a suicide note, and have a history of suicide attempts compared to males.7 Suicide is a complex issue, however, and doesn’t have a single cause (ie; recent relationship problems) since many factors contribute to a person experiencing suicidality.
- An average of 648 Utahns die from suicide1 and 4,221 Utahns attempt*2 suicide each year.
- Overall, more Utahns are hospitalized or treated in an emergency department (ED) for suicide attempts than are fatally injured.1 On average, 2 Utahns die as a result of suicide every day and 12 Utahns are treated for suicide attempts every day.
- Utah’s suicide rate has been consistently higher than the national rate for more than a decade. Utah had the ninth highest suicide rate in the U.S. in 2020 for ages 10 years and older.4
- The average total charges per year for ED visits and hospitalizations for suicide attempts were $55.5 million for Utahns.2
- According to recent survey data, among high school students, 41.5% reported feeling sad or hopeless, 22.5% had seriously considered attempting suicide, and 18.0% had made a suicide plan.5
See the data
“We all go through the sludge, and depression never discriminates. Took me a long time to realize it, but the key is to not be afraid to open up. Especially us dudes have a tendency to keep it in. You’re not alone.”
Protective factors are conditions or attributes in an individual, family, or community that increase the health and well-being of children and families. Protective factors may reduce suicide risk by helping people cope with negative life events, even when those events continue for a period of time. The ability to cope or solve problems reduces the chance that a person will become overwhelmed, depressed or anxious.6
- Receiving effective mental health care or substance abuse treatment.
- Positive connections to family, peers, community, and social institutions that foster resilience.
- Restricted access to highly lethal means of suicide, such as guns or pills.
- Skills in problem solving, conflict resolution, and nonviolent handling of disputes.
- Cultural and religious beliefs that discourage suicide and support self-preservation.
Suicide is a complex behavior and generally cannot be attributed to a single cause or event. Research has found that approximately 90% of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable mental health or substance use disorder at the time of their death. Suicide is also often preceded by a lifetime history of traumatic events. Several other factors that put a person at increased risk for suicide may include:
- Alcohol or drug abuse.
- Diagnosable mental health disorder.
- Easy access to lethal methods, such as guns or pills.
- Family history of suicide or violence.
- Lack of social support.
- Loss of a family member or friend, especially if by suicide.
- Physical health problems like chronic pain or traumatic brain injury.
- Relationship or school problems.
- Stressful life event or loss.
Screen time was also identified as a risk factor—students who reported playing video games or using computers for non-school related activities (gaming, social media, etc.) for 3 or more hours a day were 2 times as likely to have considered suicide compared to those who had 2 or fewer hours of daily screen time.6
“It took me a while to get my stuff together to go, ‘You know what? If you’re not happy, you have to do something about it. Just to admit that you are feeling this way is a huge step. To claim that, to say, ‘Why do I feel dark? Why do I feel unhappy? Let me do something about this.”
Ways to help someone
- Take any warning signs of threat of suicide seriously.
- If you are seeing warning signs, ask the person directly if they are thinking about suicide. Asking does not increase risk of a suicide attempt.
- Do not leave the person alone.
- Listen without judgment. Gently guiding them to talk about their past or current reasons for living may be helpful.
- Remove guns or pills to prevent a suicide attempt.
- Call a therapist or your local behavioral health authority to request a crisis appointment. Visit dsamh.utah.gov/crisis-hotlines-2 for more information. You may also call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline (988) to ask for help and get advice on what to do next. Work with a counselor to create and implement a plan to keep the person safe.
- If the person has a weapon or is not responding to attempts to contact them, call 911 and request a Crisis Intervention Team officer to do a welfare check.
- Support the person in receiving ongoing mental health treatment including medications, talk therapy, and self- help as appropriate.
- Utah Death Certificate Database, Office of Vital Records and Statistics, Utah Department of Health and Human Services, 2019-2021 data queried via Utah’s Indicator Based Information System for Public Health (IBIS-PH) [cited 2023 May].
- Utah Inpatient Hospital Discharge Data, Office of Health Care Statistics; Utah Emergency Department Encounter Database, Bureau of Emergency Medical Services, Utah Department of Health and Human Services, 2019-2021data queried via Utah’s Indicator Based Information System for Public Health (IBIS-PH) [cited 2023 May].
- Population Data: National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) through a collaborative agreement with the U.S. Census Bureau, data queried via Utah’s Indicator Based Information System for Public Health (IBIS-PH) [cited 2023 May].
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS), 2011-2020 data [cited 2023 May].
- Utah Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, Utah State Office of Education, data queried via Utah’s Indicator Based Information System for Public Health (IBIS-PH) [cited 2023 May].
- Utah Health Status Update: Risk and Protective Factors for Youth Suicide. Utah Department of Health and Human Services, February 2015 [cited 2023 May].
- Utah Violent Death Reporting System, Violence and Injury Prevention Program, Utah Department of Health and Human Services, 2011-2020 data (cited 2023 May).