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Utah launches three year, multi-million dollar suicide prevention campaign

(Taryn Hiatt, at podium, speaking at the Live On campaign launch. Representative Steve Eliason, left. Credit: Paul Nelson, May 21, 2020)

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah state leaders are launching a new suicide prevention campaign to stop suicides in Utah.  They say hundreds of people in the state have been taking their own lives every year.  They want people who are suffering to know where to turn if they need help, especially during trying times like a global pandemic.

The “Live On” Utah suicide prevention campaign launched next to the reflecting pool at the Utah State Capitol.  One of the main speakers was Taryn Hiatt, who had plotted and even attempted to take her own life several times.  She wishes her father were still alive to see this campaign kick-off.  He took his own life in 2002 after battling depression for many years.

“He saw a lot of it as an internal flaw in himself and that he was weak,” she says.

She says, back then, people talked about things like suicidal thoughts and depression even less than they do now.  She believes the stigma of asking for help to deal with mental illness is still prevalent with many people all across the U.S.

Hiatt understands depression all too well.  She says it was the driving factor behind why she wanted to end her life so many times.  In her head, she understood her friends and family loved her, but her heart just didn’t feel it.

“I know that I’m loved.  It’s not about that.  People can’t love my depression away any more than I can love cancer away,” Hiatt says.  “Regardless of how [much love] people may feel about me, I didn’t share that same thought.”

The campaign started with $1 million set aside by the state legislature in 2019, and elected officials say private organizations quickly matched that amount.  Those funds will go toward buying ads and public services announcements that will go anywhere people might see them.

“TV, print, radio, online, potentially billboards… any medium to get the message out,” says Representative Steve Eliason.

State data shows an average of 620 Utahns have committed suicide every year for the past five years.  Eliason says this year is especially concerning because of the isolation and job loss caused by COVID-19 health restrictions.

He says, “This will help let them know that there are excellent resources available 24/7.”

Anyone dealing with depression or suicidal thoughts is encouraged to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

 

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