Potential new law could be big step forward solving Utah’s shocking suicide issue

Awareness and Education is the focus of National Suicide Prevention Week. Image courtesy Samantha Marx.

<p style=”line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 11pt;” dir=”ltr”><span style=”font-size: 12px; font-family: Verdana; color: #000000; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;”>In order to deal with Utah’s all-too-prevalent suicide problem, members of the state’s House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice committee gave unanimous support for legislation that would require mental health professionals to take</span> <a style=”text-decoration: none;” href=”http://www.standard.net/Government/2015/02/10/Suicide-prevention-bill-gets-hearty-support-from-House-committee”><span style=”font-size: 12px; font-family: Verdana; text-decoration: underline; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;”>two hours of suicide prevention training as part of their licensing and subsequent renewals.</span></a></p><p style=”line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 11pt;” dir=”ltr”><span style=”font-size: 12px; font-family: Verdana; color: #000000; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;”>”This [suicide issue] is a critical mental health issue,” said Representative Justin Fawson, the sponsor of House Bill 209.</span></p><p style=”line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 11pt;” dir=”ltr”><span style=”font-size: 12px; font-family: Verdana; color: #000000; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;”>Utah sits in the middle of America’s “Suicide Belt,” where suicide rates are</span> <a style=”text-decoration: none;” href=”http://america.aljazeera.com/watch/shows/america-tonight/articles/2015/1/29/why-is-utah-americas-most-depressed-state.html”><span style=”font-size: 12px; font-family: Verdana; text-decoration: underline; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;”>twice or even three times as high as in other parts of the country.</span></a> <span style=”font-size: 12px; font-family: Verdana; color: #000000; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;”>According to Perry Renshaw, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Utah, the Beehive State leads the nation in rates of suicide and depression. The problem is so bad, in fact, that statistics show suicide is the sixth leading cause of death in Utah, and is the first for youth in the state between the ages of 10 and 17.</span></p><p style=”line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 11pt;” dir=”ltr”><span style=”font-size: 12px; font-family: Verdana; color: #000000; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;”>However, suicide</span> <span style=”font-size: 12px; font-family: Verdana; color: #000000; font-style: italic; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;”>is</span> <span style=”font-size: 12px; font-family: Verdana; color: #000000; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;”>preventable.</span></p><p style=”line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 11pt;” dir=”ltr”><span style=”font-size: 12px; font-family: Verdana; color: #000000; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;”>”Many more people attempt suicide or have suicidal thoughts than die by suicide,” said Kim Meyers, Utah’s Department of Human Services suicide prevention coordinator. “We are continually working on a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention in Utah,” which core competency training would be a critical part of.</span></p><p style=”line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 11pt;” dir=”ltr”><span style=”font-size: 12px; font-family: Verdana; color: #000000; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;”>While mental health professionals are in full agreement that the aforementioned competency training could help, the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health’s treatment programs administrator Dave Felt said that such training is needed to fill an existing gap, but is not a one-size-fits-all course.</span></p><p style=”line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 11pt;” dir=”ltr”><span style=”font-size: 12px; font-family: Verdana; color: #000000; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;”>”The bill allows the Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing (DOPL) and the various boards to determine what training is appropriate for each profession, which we think is a really important part of the requirement,” Felt said.</span></p><p style=”line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 11pt;” dir=”ltr”><span style=”font-size: 12px; font-family: Verdana; color: #000000; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;”>Essentially, the DOPL will decide what suicide prevention training will be most necessary for each profession, tailoring the courses’ contents for each field.</span></p><p style=”line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 11pt;” dir=”ltr”><span style=”font-size: 12px; font-family: Verdana; color: #000000; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;”>Some professions, though, don’t need to undergo additional training. Psychologists have been excluded, because they already must have six hours of suicide prevention training every six years, and while the Utah Medical Association does support the bill in concept, medical professionals are also excluded.</span></p><p style=”line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 11pt;” dir=”ltr”><span style=”font-size: 12px; font-family: Verdana; color: #000000; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;”>No matter how much training is received regularly, though, suicide is still difficult to prevent. Most primary care physicians and mental health care providers have had patients die from suicide. Not only are the signs difficult to recognize, but</span> <a style=”text-decoration: none;” href=”http://browarddoc.com/blog/three-types-patients-benefit-medical-marijuana/”><span style=”font-size: 12px; font-family: Verdana; text-decoration: underline; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;”>80% of depressed individuals don’t seek out professional help.</span></a></p><p style=”line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 11pt;” dir=”ltr”><span style=”font-size: 12px; font-family: Verdana; color: #000000; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;”>”That’s happened to me on way too many occasions … and it’s a very sad day,” said Representative Edward Redd, who is also a medical physician. “I take it extremely personally, that I failed the patient somehow.”</span></p><p style=”line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 11pt;” dir=”ltr”><span style=”font-size: 12px; font-family: Verdana; color: #000000; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;”>Though the struggle may certainly be difficult, it is still a challenge that needs resolving, which HB 209 sets out to help do. Now, it will advance to the full house for consideration.</span></p>

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