Illustration| Tribune News Service
Illustration| Tribune News Service

When people hear the word “Utah” they may think of skiing, hunting or any number of other outdoor activities. They may even think of the predominant religion, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They may never even consider the fact that Utah has a high suicide rate.

The Hope4Utah organization has gone above and beyond in suicide prevention and education. The organization was started by Dr. Greg Hudnall, who made a promise to do all he could to help prevent youth from committing suicide. Hudnall made this promise to himself after he was contacted by the Provo Police Department to help identify the body of a teenager who attended the high school he worked for at the time.

Hudnall described his experience after identifying the body of the teenager. “I walked away, wept and vomited. It was then when I made a promise to do everything I could to help prevent suicide,” he said.

Hudnall began the organization by sending out letters to several different agencies such as Intermountain Healthcare, the Provo Police Department and the Department of Children and Family Services. Hudnall described the response to his letters as overwhelming.

Since Hudnall sent out those letters, Hope4Utah has grown immensely. The organization has 3,000 volunteers, 130 Hope Squad Schools and has trained over 25,000 Utah citizens in how to recognize the signs and how to speak to youth who may be considering suicide.

When someone decides to take their own life people will often be left asking why someone would make that decision. Hudnall, the executive director of Hope4Utah, spoke about a few factors that could affect Utah’s high suicide rate.

First Hudnall mentioned that people are usually afraid to speak about suicide for fear that this will implant the idea into the minds of those youths who may be depressed. Hudnall dismissed this idea. “Those who are depressed will have already thought of suicide and prevention education will not give the idea to someone who hasn’t had it before” he said.

The Hope4Utah focuses on three areas: prevention, intervention and postvention. Prevention is all about teaching people about the warning signs, intervention focuses on showing people how to approach and talk to people they suspect might be considering suicide and postvention is all about providing help to those who may be affected by a tragedy in order to reduce their risk.

Hope4Utah has a mantra that they follow, which reads, “It takes an entire community to save one. It takes an entire village to raise a child.”

Hope4Utah focuses a good part of their resources on educating members of the community about how to recognize the signs of depression and suicide. This includes education for not only teachers but other staff members in schools as well.

The Hope4Utah organization works with many different organizations in the community such as the hospitals, police departments and local mental health clinics. Hope4Utah first started in Provo but has since grown and spans across the entire state of Utah.

Hudnall finished by saying, “Not every suicide is preventable. We still lose some, but I would say that most suicides are preventable.”

Those who are wanting more information about any services offered by Hope4Utah or who want to get involved can visit http://hope4utah.com/.

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