CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Utah County Sheriff’s Office reports uptick in suicides during 2020

Jan 29, 2021, 6:30 PM | Updated: Dec 29, 2022, 12:57 pm
Suicide prevention card. A Utah agency is holding suicide prevention classes...
A drawing hangs along with other messages of hope and remembrance as part of Suicide Prevention Day at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020. (Spenser Heaps/Deseret News)
(Spenser Heaps/Deseret News)

UTAH COUNTY – State officials say the number of suicides across the state remained relatively steady in 2020, despite the global pandemic and its impact on mental health.  However, officials with the Utah County Sheriff’s Office says they’ve noticed a dramatic spike in the number of people who took their own lives last year.

The sheriff’s office is, in no way, refuting or even questioning the findings released by the Utah Department of Health.  Analysts say there are several reasons why the data from two different agencies may not match, even though neither data set is wrong.

Sergeant Spencer Cannon says it felt like their deputies had been investigating more deaths by suicide over the last 12 months.  So, he looked over the data from 2010 to 2019 to see if that was true.  He tells KSL the average number of suicide investigations over the last decade was 12 per year.  However, he says there was a dramatic jump in 2020.

Cannon says, “By the end of the year of 2020, we had investigated 32 deaths by suicide.”

The department has not conducted any kind of scientific review of these cases, so they can’t be certain why there was a spike. 

“We don’t know why that increase is there.  Certainly, we have to ask ourselves the question if it may be related to the pressures of the pandemic, but, we don’t know that,” according to Cannon.

Why the discrepancy between Utah County and the state’s numbers?  Officials from UDOH issued a statement saying the Medical Examiner’s Office only reviews cases that involve a fatality, while law enforcement investigates many cases that don’t.

The statement reads, in part, “While law enforcement and the medical examiner respond in tandem to fatal events, there is no formal reconciliation between our records. A death may be originally investigated as a suicide, and therefore, remain a suicide in law enforcement records. The medical examiner may discover additional evidence to suggest that the death was an accident or some other manner. There is no formal process by which the law enforcement record would be updated to match the medical examiner record.”

However, UDOH acknowledges the number of suicides has gone up in Utah County, just as it has all across the state.  The statement says Utah County saw an increase in 2020 which was lower than the increase between the two previous years, acknowledging that one suicide is too many.

Cannon says the county wants to learn what the main driving factor is behind the spike.

“We’d like to know because there are a lot of prevention resources out there,” he says.

The department is in the very early planning stages of a suicide prevention campaign that can reach out to people who are in despair.  Cannon says there are certain remote locations within the county that may be attractive to people considering suicide.

Cannon says, “Hopefully, we can put up some signs in areas where we have seen people who are in despair, for whatever reason, go to consider taking their life.”

Anyone going through depression or feeling suicidal thoughts needs to call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

Crime, Police + Courts

The Goonies House...
Taylor Romine and Ralph Ellis, CNN

Man wanted for leaving a dead fish at ‘The Goonies’ house saved by Coast Guard in daring rescue

A man wanted by police in an incident at a house featured in "The Goonies" was the subject of a Coast Guard rescue when he was tossed from a stolen boat as it capsized, authorities said.
18 hours ago
SLCPD said the driver is fully cooperating with the investigation and the children received non-lif...
Chandler Holt

SLCPD makes arrest connected to fatal stabbing case

SLCPD announced the arrest of 26-year-old Ivy Chase Grant today. Grant was booked into Salt Lake County Metro Jail on a charge of obstruction of justice. 
18 hours ago
Salt Lake City Police say three sticks of dynamite were safely removed from a house this week by it...
Mark Jones

Three sticks of dynamite removed from Salt Lake City home

Three sticks of dynamite were removed from a Salt Lake City home on Wednesday, the SLCPD announced. The dynamite have been seized for investigation.
2 days ago
defraud...
Britt Johnson

Utah County men facing charges for defrauding the United States

The claims state that Zachary Bassett and Mason Warr used a fraudulent tax scheme to receive COVID-19-related relief funds.
2 days ago
Rep. Kera Birkeland, R-Morgan, sponsor of HB297 Victim Services Amendments, poses for a portrait at...
Katie McKellar, Deseret News

A Utah lawmaker and her sister at odds: Should rape victims need to contact police before getting an abortion?

Rep. Kera Birkeland says her bill focuses on rape victim services and holding rapists accountable. But her sister, a rape survivor, says it strips away choices.
2 days ago
On Jan. 31, 2023, a missing Arizona girl was found and rescued from the basement of a registered se...
Elizabeth Weiler

Missing girl from Arizona found in West Valley basement

On Jan. 31, 2023, a missing Arizona girl was found and rescued from the basement of a registered sex offender. 
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer, the tests that can warn women about potential cancer, and the importance of vaccination.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy. This year the event will be held from January 27-29 at the Utah Bear Lake State Park Marina and Sunrise Resort and Event Center in Garden City, Utah. 
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...
Macey's

15 Easy Christmas Dinner Ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy. Choose from the dishes we’ve highlighted to plan your meal or start brainstorming your own meal plan a couple of weeks before to make sure you have time to shop and prepare.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The Best Tools for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workplace Success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
Utah County Sheriff’s Office reports uptick in suicides during 2020