Seeking answers: Utah Valley University conference covers suicide prevention

Local News

OREM (ABC4 News) – Students and professors at Utah Valley University spent Friday discussing a topic that no one enjoys talking about: suicide. Organizers of the 2019 Suicide Prevention Conference say it’s a subject that needs to be out in the open.

Craig Miller was the keynote speaker at the daylong event at the Sorenson Student Center.

“Suicide is a mental health issue,” he told ABC4 News. “It’s a lack of passion and passion for life when we lose the ability to want to continue.” 

Miller knows the subject all too well. In addition to being a speaker and author…he’s also the survivor of a suicide attempt when he was 20 years old. 

 “I think one of the things that has really helped me to come away from that is embracing the things that contributed to those thoughts that contributed to my suicide,” he said. “Rather than looking at those as things that destroyed me and broke me down I looked at them as experiences that were mine and how could I find wellness inside those and how could I find peace in those things.” 

Dr. Angela Panos is a UVU Professor who teaches Substance Use Disorder Counseling.

“Here in Utah, unfortunately, suicide is the number one cause of death with adolescents,” she said. “What we need to know is what is actually working and we need to carefully understand the problem, what the statistics are, what the incidents rates are so that we know whether our interventions are making any difference or not and how we can best target those successful interventions.”

J.C. Graham, UVU’s Director of Crisis Services, says the situation is improving.

“For the state of Utah in the last year we actually did not have an increase in suicide deaths,” Graham said. “The stigma about talking about suicide, that stigma in my perception at least here at Utah Valley University is decreasing….people are talking about suicide. Students are reaching out. Helping their friends, their peers, faculty members, staff are reaching out. Often times we do crisis response work and support people.”

“If we can get to a point where we can speak about our mental wellness as much as openly as we speak about our own physical health then I we’ll be in a lot better position,” Miller said. “Talking about suicide and suicidal thoughts it’s one of the key things that needs to happen and continue to happen in places like this and conferences like this are a great example of that actually happening.” 

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide – there is help available. you can call the suicide prevention lifeline anytime at 1-800-273-8255

There’s also help available through the SafeUT phone app and at https://utahsuicideprevention.org/

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