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Suicide rate in Utah during COVID-19
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Utah suicide rate remains stable during the pandemic

FILE: KSL TV

SALT LAKE CITY — It might stand to reason that the Utah suicide rate would go up during the coronavirus pandemic, with people facing all kinds of additional stress. But it turns out the number of suicides has remained stable through the spring and summer months of 2020.

Michael Staley works in suicide prevention for the state medical examiner’s office. “We average just under fourteen suicide deaths per week.  And so, we haven’t seen anything unusual beyond that. It’s right about what we expect.”  Staley said there hasn’t been an unusual increase among teens or any other demographic group.

Calls to suicide hotline have increased

Even though the number of deaths hasn’t gone up, the number of people asking for help on the state’s suicide hotline certainly has increased. Rachel Lucynski is the business operations manager for crisis services at University Neuropsychiatric Institute, which operates the hotline and the SafeUT smartphone app.  “We’ve seen anywhere from a 5 to 10 percent increase every month since the start of the pandemic in our total calls that have been received. The acuity or the stress levels of the calls that are coming in have increased during the pandemic as well.”

Related:  Unusual trends regarding suicide prevention in Utah in the age of COVID-19

The hotline has added staff during the pandemic, with a focus on outreach to rural Utah. The goal is to get the caller through the immediate crisis and make a connection to resources in the community.

“We have not consistently run into any challenges where we haven’t been able to provide some sort of additional help or support to someone,” Lucynski said. “But we have most certainly looked at expanding the ways in which we do provide those additional resources.”

As pandemic wears on, concern persists over Utah suicide rate

And the pandemic is far from over. Programs that were meant to provide temporary economic assistance have been running out. Kids going back to school have added a new level of concern. Even people who work in the field occasionally need help.

One of them is Taryn Hiatt with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “I already have depression, that’s already part of my experience,” she told KSL Newsradio. “And I just think, with everything going on, it just got to a point where I was no longer able to manage it the way I usually can manage it. It was time that I got some medical help to help me in that effort.” 

If you’re experiencing thoughts of suicide – or you know someone who is – the hotline number is 800-273-8255. It’s staffed 24-hours a day by professionals trained to help. You may also visit this website for more information.