The rate of teen suicide in the United States is rising. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), supportive community environments act as a protective factor in suicide prevention.
At the Utah State Capitol on Wednesday, Gov. Gary Herbert announced the formation of a community task force to address teen suicide.
“We believe every life is important and has worth,” Governor Herbert said. “Suicide is sometimes difficult to talk about. But suicide is something we need to talk about and see what we can do to make things better. All of us have a role to play. All of us have something we can contribute. All of us having something we can do to make [life] better for young people.”
Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints joined various civic leaders on the task force. He expressed the Church’s support for community efforts to prevent teen suicide.
“We have a history in Utah of coming together as a community. We have demonstrated before on tough issues that we can bring a group together, like we have today, to face issues that can make a real difference in the lives of people — and can in fact be modeled elsewhere in this great country,” Elder Rasband said at the press conference.
After the press conference, Elder Rasband said, “To those who feel alone, rejected, or marginalized, or who feel, for any reason, that taking their life might be the solution to their problems, know that you are loved, valued, and respected. Talk to someone. You don’t need to suffer alone. We love you and we need you.”
Governor Herbert charged the task force with identifying and prioritizing programs and initiatives that promote teen health, safety and suicide prevention and which could benefit from added community engagement and support. The Governor set a hard deadline of February 15 for recommendations from the task force to be ready for consideration at the 2018 Utah Legislative Session.
The task force will be chaired by Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox and Utah State Rep. Steven Eliason and will include, among others, Sen. Stuart Adams of the Utah State Senate; Sydnee Dickson, Utah State superintendent of public instruction; Dr. Doug Gray from the University of Utah; A. Marc Harrison, CEO and president of Intermountain Healthcare; Taryn Aiken Hiatt, area director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention; Gail Miller, owner and chair of the Larry H. Miller Group; Kim Myers, suicide prevention coordinator, Utah Department of Human Services; Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Tanya Vea, vice president and general manager of KSL; Ross Van Vraken, executive director of Utah Neuropsychiatric Institute at the University of Utah; and Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah.
“Like many of you, my life has been touched by suicide or attempted suicide,” said Gail Miller. “We believe that every person should be able to embrace his or her individuality and uniqueness and that every child deserves a non-threatening environment where they feel like they belong in our homes and our schools should be safe places.” Miller is also a member of the Utah Anti-Bullying Coalition.
Church leaders have emphasized the need to foster communities of inclusion where no one is bullied, mistreated or excluded for who they are. The Church has supported past community efforts to address teen safety and health and express respect and love for all of God’s children.
Elder Rasband said the Church is eager to continue its support for such efforts, including the governor’s newly created task force:
“We are committed to doing all we can do, not only in our congregations throughout the state, but in working with all of you in every mode — church, school, society. We must all come together to face this issue,” Elder Rasband said. “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is going to be a very willing participant in the community effort to find answers to this very serious problem.”