SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) —  The lives of students in Utah have been dramatically impacted during the pandemic as new data shows.

Mental health concerns are increasing at an alarming rate.

However, more resources are on the way, thanks to a partnership that dates back to 2017 between Utah and Intermountain Healthcare Primary Children’s Hospital.

Primary Children’s is now expanding its mobile and telehealth mental health resources so more kids can get the help they need.

“Crisis is when you don’t know what to do,” said Dr. Lisa Giles with Primary Children’s Hospital and University of Utah Health

This isn’t an easy topic to talk about, but breaking down the barrier and stigma of mental health is a great start according to McKinley Withers, the health and wellness director at Jordan School District.

McKinley said parents need to be better models for their kids.

“Students are very much more aware than their parents and grandparents of these mental health struggles,” said Withers.

Suicide is the leading cause of death for kids in Utah aged 10 to 17 and doctors said the struggles have worsened during the COVID-19 crisis.

“Historically when a family is in crisis where do you turn?” said Giles. “What do you do? Often that means going to the emergency room or calling law enforcement or something trying to get this desperate help.”

If a child is experiencing a mental health episode, help can come straight to them.

The program first started in 2017 and is now in 15 of Utah’s 29 counties.

Dr. Giles said it allows licensed clinicians to either take phone calls or come to a Utahn’s house to be a support system and help solve the issue whether it’s a toddler’s tantrum or a teen who wrote a suicide note. 

“I think the best weapon that any parent has in modern times is an open conversation with their child about what they see what they hear what they are faced with,” said Withers.

Withers said adults need to be honest with their kids and vulnerable. 

“When an adult models that they are struggling with difficult emotions, it’s really helpful for kids to see that and watch them go through that,” said Withers.

If your child is struggling no matter the age you can call 1-833-SAFE-FAM.

The visit and any follow-ups are free no matter if you have insurance or not.

Additional resources

·       Primary Children’s Assessment, Referral and Consultation Service: 801-313-7711

·       Utah Crisis Line: 801-587-3000

·       SafeUT app

·       National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

People in life-threatening situations should call 911 or go to the nearest hospital emergency room.