Symposium encourages community to prevent tragedies

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Photo by Collin Cooper

The number one cause of death for children ages 11-17 is suicide, says Maj. Gen. Jeff Burton, who spoke at the Suicide Prevention Symposium Sept. 14.

“That’s not something we want to be number one in this state,” said Burton.

Burton, the keynote speaker at the symposium, shared his personal experiences of his son committing suicide, and he recommend that parents show children positive role models at a young age to prevent feelings of hopelessness in the future. He also discussed how there might be chemical imbalances associated with how someone feels and that people have the choice to label themselves as victors or victims.

“We all have to make the decision of whether or not we will take that and use it as fuel to make us better, faster or stronger. That’s a decision we all have to make, victim or victor. Many who have been victimized choose to be victors, and I hope that’s what we teach our children – to deal with pain,” said Burton.

Burton also discussed how service members and soldiers coming back into civilian life have high suicide rates.

“It’s a growing problem in the military sector. The symposium is really important for UVU because of the type of school UVU is, it being a trade school, having 800 plus military personnel that roam the halls here. There is a lot of military presence here,” said Gregory Augustin, an emergency services major at UVU.

“Research shows that Utah does have a high rate of depression, so that’s what I would correlate with why there is a high rate of suicides,” said J.C. Graham, director of crisis services at UVU.

The university has a Student Health Crisis Services Center located in the Sorenson Center. However, students have waited up to six weeks for an appointment.

“We do have qualified licensed professionals that can provide treatment to students. Sometimes we have more students seeking services than we have staff. Their case loads are full. One of the things we have found is that we do have a waitlist,” said Graham. “We need more services as far as people in positions to be able to provide the services.”

If a student is in a crisis and can’t wait for an appointment, the center offers emergency walk-in services to meet with a crisis therapist who is available for emergency situations. Warning signs of an at-risk person may include: increased alcohol or drug use, feelings of purposelessness, hopelessness and anxiety.

The symposium is designed for people of “all walks of life” and also for professionals, said Graham. The department offered continual education credit for professionals who attended the event.

Over 270 people attended the symposium, organized by UVU’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Student Health Center Crisis Services and the Veteran’s Center. While students had the opportunity to attend free of charge, non-students paid $39-$59 to attend.

If you or anyone you know has thoughts of suicide contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-8255.