New data show suicides and accidental drug overdoses did not increase during the pandemic

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UTAH (ABC4) – The Utah Department of Health released new data on Thursday showing that although suicides and accidental drug overdoses are high in the state, they did not increase during the pandemic.

According to a recent report by the CDC, there was a 51% percent increase in suicide attempts nationwide among teenage girls between January and March of this year. “The death of just one teen by suicide is one too many,” says Micheal Staley, suicide prevention research coordinator with the UDOH.

On average, 640 Utahns die by suicide each year, and another 6,500 are treated in emergency departments for suicide-related behaviors.

Today, health officials unveiled the next five-year plan to provide outreach to anyone struggling with mental health; by utilizing a statewide warmline, the SafeUT app, and mobile crisis response teams.

The Utah Department of Health says the long-term consequences of the pandemic on mental health, suicide, and substance abuse will take time to understand.

Utah Department of Human Services Suicide Prevention Program Administrator Alison Foust says, “We know our friends, we know our families we know our coworkers, we know when something is different and it’s our responsibility to check in, checking in can save a life.”

Foust adds that everyone plays a role in preventing suicides and drug overdose deaths, by just simply listening to what your friends and loved ones are saying detecting key phrases that may indicate someone is considering harming themselves. 

“An example is if someone is expressing thoughts of hopelessness, that things aren’t going to get better, are indications someone might be having these thoughts,” says Foust.

Today’s announcement comes two days before nationwide prescription drug takeback day, where anyone can responsibly dispose of prescription drugs.

In a recent tweet, Layton Police said during April’s takeback event they collected over 400 pounds of prescription pills.

The Utah Department of Health says that you can detect the signs that you or someone you know is experiencing an opioid overdose by a decrease in breathing, choking noises, a fast or erratic heartbeat.

Megan Broekemeier, opioid fatality research coordinator for the Utah Department of Health says “overdose symptoms can vary depending on the type of drug a person uses.”

Health officials also encourage people to speak with their doctor about alternatives to prescription opioids.

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