Posted on Oct 28, 2020
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Dr. Tim: Well, hello everyone. Welcome to The in with Dr. Tim. We are so fortunate here today to have Taryn Hyatt with us. She's the area director of the Nevada and Utah regions, and she is with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Now you may be asking, why is The in with Dr. Tim want to talk about suicide prevention? Well, we are in the midst of a crazy epidemic, virus, COVID 19. We're in the midst of another crazy epidemic, someone might even say pandemic, in relation to the opioid crisis. We potentially have two pandemics upon us. And not to mention, we are in a massive sort of down economic time. And so, with that, I've had multiple patients in my facility, here at the Institute of Positional Release Therapy, really just tell me they're not doing well. Their family members aren't doing well, some have contemplated ending their life.
Myself, I have a personal story and a personal connection to suicide and suicide prevention. I went through some very significant clinical depression in my early 20s, and had considered and attempted, slightly, I know that seems odd, like an oxymoron, slightly, to take my own life. So, I have a very vested interest in helping others through that dark time and to see the light of day as many did for me, and I believe Taryn is in that same position as well. So, as a dedicated advocate, Taryn shares her story and passion to give hope and educate our communities about suicide. She is a survivor of her own attempts, as well as a survivor of suicide loss, losing her father, Terry Aiken, one October 5th, 2002. Taryn is a founding member of the Utah Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and currently serves as the area director for Utah and Nevada. Taryn is a certified safe TALK and mental health first aid trainer, facilitating hundreds of seminars to many different groups.
Taryn is a passionate advocate for change and has been featured in both US news and the Huffington Post. She has testified before congressional members in Washington D.C. to increase awareness and support for better access to mental health services and to promote healthy discussions about suicide. She is widely respected throughout Utah for her hard work and dedication to saving lives. And Taryn is a graduate of Valley University with her bachelor's degree in psychology and is in the midst of pursuing a master's as well in social work.
And I kind of sought out Taryn a little bit, and she kind of came to me, and it's perfect because, if you're not aware, Utah has a pretty significant problem with suicide. So, with that, I'd like to welcome Taryn. And so, Taryn thanks so much today for joining us. We really appreciate your time and your expertise and really helping to help others.
Taryn: Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to be here.
Dr. Tim: So, Taryn, maybe you can just educate us a little bit. We can talk a little bit and set the stage I guess for what are the major factors of why people consider taking their life, contemplating suicide?
Taryn: Yeah. Suicide is a health issue, and I think that's really where we all have to start in understanding and embracing it as such. If we addressed suicide as the health issue it is, the stigma that has surrounded it, the lack of resources and other things that continue to be in this discussion, would start to disappear, and we would see more people, again, seeking help and getting help.
But when we look at the fact that it is a health issue, it's very complex. There's rarely a single cause that gets somebody into that place where they contemplate suicide. It's usually a multitude of things happening at the same time. That's why it's been a little bit more difficult to address. If it was just depression, or just substance use, or just because I lost my job, just put whatever after it, then we'd be a little bit more strategic, but we're usually trying to address it from a multitude of factors. And so, that's one of the biggest complexities about suicide. But what we do know is, again, a large majority of people who struggle or attempt to take their lives and do die from suicide did have a diagnosable mental health condition at the time of death. Unfortunately, it was most often unrecognized and therefore untreated.
Dr. Tim: Well, I totally agree thinking about my personal experience but also my patients as well. We deal with just a tremendous amount of chronic pain patients here at the institute. And while they didn't necessarily, at least to my knowledge, have an underlying mental illness, they sure got depressed from having chronic say back pain. And then, if we think about, and a lot of us know those individuals out there, maybe ourselves or our family members, they have some crazy chronic pain, no one can seem to fix it, maybe they end up on opioids, or some drugs, or substance abuse even because they can't deal with their chronic pain. So, now they've added another problem, ideally, or not ideally to their current situation. And so, then they're not sleeping, they're getting bummed out, maybe they lose their job.
Dr. Tim: It seems to me, there seems to always be some kind of trigger that I hear about, you know, when my patients and I start to talk about it, they're like, oh yeah, this happened to me when I was a child, or now I have this issue. Can you talk a little bit about that, and how maybe those factors might interplay with one another, and maybe is there one that really just is one of the primary factors, or do you think it's really equally spread across all the factors that put us at risk for maybe considering or attempting to take a life?
Taryn: Yeah. So, it's interesting, the CDC came out back in 2018 with kind of some new data. They've been doing a lot more research into suicide deaths, psychological autopsies, and such, and said that in about half of people who died by suicide, it wasn't known to whether they had a mental health condition or not. And so, we know there's absolutely more to the story than just mental health. But what affects our mental health, and where does that start, where does that begin? And to your point, there's absolutely correlations and risk factors identified with folks who do have chronic pain, chronic illness, terminal illnesses even, that definitely play a role. While they may not have experienced depression before, but maybe those symptoms start to develop in and on the onset after these diagnoses or dealing with something for a long period of time.
We see those things happen frequently. I think a lot of people can relate to that feeling of depression and anxiety even if they've never experienced it before this year. You know, COVID has been... 2020, it has been a year of never ending who knows what's going to happen next. We're all dealing with this uncertainty and not knowing, again, what's the next day going to bring, what's it going to hold? And I think for a lot of people, they're experiencing some of those symptoms even if they never have before. But when we start looking at really what causes depression, anxiety, and some of those things, it starts at a young age. Usually they say the first onset of mental health conditions happen around age 11. So, we have hormones and the body changing. But a lot of folks will...
Oh, yeah. It starts with a trauma, something that they've experienced, an event. And remember trauma is different for each of us. It doesn't have to be an earth shattering. Trauma could be a divorce in the family. Trauma could be witnessing abuse. Trauma could be not knowing where my meal is going to come from if I'm a young child. So, there really are, it's a lot of factors. And to your point of what's that trigger, that tipping point, I always use the analogy that when we look at risk factors for suicide, it's like a glass of water that is full, right? There's all these things that are in there. And then, one more happens and it's not the fault of that last drop, right, being added to my cup, it's the combination of everything. But yes, we do need to kind of know and understand more about what can we do to mitigate that risk or not let our come get so full that when that one last drop comes, we're overflowing.
Dr. Tim: And maybe we're overflowing now as a nation because the COVID cup is getting pretty darn full, isn't it?
Taryn: Oh, yeah.
Dr. Tim: And maybe we had these traumas early in our life, whether they were sexual abuse, whether it was violence, whether it was like what you said, maybe you just saw something and you had a PTSD moment, right? I think back to when my mother and father used to fight and that's still there, right? So, then, we throw COVID in on this. We throw losing a job. We throw the uncertainty, being uncertain whether or not we even have money for food, right.
Dr. Tim: It's kind of understandable, and what some of my mental health practitioners have told me, that we may have a mental health tsunami coming our way and it's common, they said.
Dr. Tim: They said it's coming. And what they've said is we're not prepared for it. Why do you think we're not prepared for it? Why has psychiatrists and social workers, why do you think they've said that to me? I've heard it now three times. He said, "Tim, we're not ready. We're not going to be prepared for this." But we've known about suicide for a long time. And even, I think I saw there was some kind of bill passed not too long ago, The National Suicide Improvement Act, how come we're not ready for it? I'm just curious.
Dr. Tim: People I think should know.
Taryn: Yeah, no. So, there's a lot that kind of plays into this. So, let's just kind of unpack some of what you've – you've brought up. So, we know that all the risk factors that we've historically taught about suicide, right? The loss, the uncertainty, the stress, the mental illness, all of these things. Again, now we're impacting more people than have ever been effected before because of COVID.
So, while yes, it is something that we've seen more people be affected by, it means that more people are seeking out resources. More people are looking for care. More people are in distress. And because of that, we have never had a system. I mean, I always laugh. I really do. I Laugh when people are like, oh our mental health care system's broken. I'm like, what do you mean broken? It was never fixed. We have never had a system. We haven't. We have not had a system that is effective.
And in place, we have criminalized people who've struggled. We have hospitalized people against their will. We don't have measures in place for people who are struggling. We have this National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It is an 800 number. How many of you in a moment of crisis can remember directions to your house, let alone a 10 digit number? We all know if my house is burning down or somebody is threatening me, I call 911. So, this Designation Act that passed through Congress just last week that now is awaiting signature from the President, would designate a three digit crisis number for mental health, 988.
But again, once we designate that, call increase is going to go up. We do not have capacity right now in our call centers to answer if we have an influx. It would need to have funding and the same capacity that 911 has. And you ask our mental health providers, when's the last time you've tried to get into a psychiatrist? How long did you have to wait? When I go to the emergency room for a heart attack I'm not told, well our cardiologist is booked three months out. So, we'll see in three months. Good luck and come back.
And then, that's what we're telling people to do when their brain is in crisis, because we have a workforce shortage. We do not have enough folks and that falls into a lot of categories as to why, right? The cost of schooling, what does it look like to get paid? What does that income coming back? And so, it's much like we're seeing with COVID where we're worried about the capacity in our hospitals. Well, we're worried about the capacity for people who are going to experience mental health crisis and not having enough resources to support them.
Dr. Tim: Well, and I don't know if this has really been spoken about, or you've had this conversation, but I've recently had a friend. She had to go to the hospital. She was experiencing some very significant breast cancer issues that then rolled into sepsis and some other things. But because of COVID, she basically was isolated and she didn't have any contact with her family. And she actually went on some ventilation for a period of time. It wasn't COVID related, but she couldn't communicate with anyone. She had mentioned she almost went insane. It was really interesting just from the sense, the lack of interaction with individuals and the sensory feedback. And you know what she said? She says, "I'm going to have nightmares the rest of my life about that experience."
And I've heard a similar thing about patients who are in COVID treatment. They can't communicate with their family. They can't talk. They can hear. They're on ventilators and so forth, who have come out of it and said that was the worst experience of my entire life. I feel like I was being mentally tortured. And I'm just kind of wondering, not only that sense of isolation and lack of communication that's occurring in the hospital for those who we're trying to save and help, I'm wondering how that plays in potentially to the long term impact that we're going to see, even for our elderly.
Dr. Tim: Who are sequestered in their rooms, who don't have any contact with family, who you have the person who has a substance abuse problem, but they're on quarantine. They can't leave. So, has there been discussion about strategies or resources that we can potentially give to those individuals to help them so that they don't end up depressed and potentially want to take their life?
Taryn: Yeah. I mean, that's what's again so interesting. So, let's go back to that first story of your friend in the hospital and having been somebody who in one of my many surgeries had to wake up on a ventilator, that is the most terrifying experience of my whole life. And I'm with her. I will never forget that. I couldn't even sleep, even with the amount of medication they were giving me because I was so terrified of what was happening. I couldn't communicate. I couldn't talk and I was by myself. They wouldn't let my mom even be with me because I was in an intensive care unit. So, I get that.
And so, I have empathy for what people are experiencing right now. And that is an acute form of isolation, right? And absolutely, we need to look at how can we support people. Right now, Caring Connections at the University of Utah has started a support group for family members who've lost a loved one to COVID, who are dealing with that grief of not being able to be present when their loved one died, to be able to communicate with them, to say things to them. And then, also for people who've just had general loss and haven't been able to grieve in the ways that they normally could grieve, couldn't attend the funeral or it had to be a limited number.
So, absolutely, we're starting to have these conversations for what supports we need to offer to people coming out of this experience. But on the flip side, that same isolation is happening just as you mentioned, right now. Isolation has always been a risk factor for people for suicide, especially in our senior population. We've talked about that at length, and it has absolutely been enforced right now. Again, the more we can find opportunities and ways to connect through things like Zoom, through things like FaceTime, so that people can still stay connected, even though they can't physically be in proximity to one another. Making those phone calls and letting them hear our voices so that they can still engage in some kind of conversation if they're able to, is so vital.
I know every time I hear these stories of these ICU nurses who are in there with their own phone FaceTiming the family so they can see and say goodbye, how tender to be able to do that, but then how heartbreaking that that's where we're at. Absolutely, we're going to see an increase, and at a state level there are absolutely discussions going on with our healthcare systems, Intermountain, folks in the suicide prevention world, about what can we do and what crisis services do we need to expand so that we can meet people where they are as we start to come out of this.
Dr. Tim: I have not heard about this program, this COVID program out of the University of Utah. I realize we're state-focused at this moment, but I know that the organization that you're involved with is a national organization, and we have a national problem. Besides the University of Utah, do you know ... Are there other federally-based programs or resources related around COVID that people can reach out to?
Taryn: You know, a lot of what's been utilized right now and kind of a focus is the National Disaster Helpline. There's different resources that way, if you go to SAMHSA's website, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, so samhsa.gov. There's different resources there for, again, kind of trauma response and call centers that are taking calls. I think something that people often overlook is the fact that even the lifeline, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, that's a resource for anybody to utilize. You don't have to be in a state of suicidal crisis if you just need to talk to somebody. There has been a focus, but I definitely think ... I mean, in my opinion right now, our federal government is kind of lacking a little bit in a lot of our response to COVID, so there's definitely work to do there, 100 percent, and we're not doing enough.
Dr. Tim: There's definitely work.
Taryn: We're not doing enough.
Dr. Tim: To be honest with you, I mean, I think that with COVID, with the protests, with gun violence, with suicide, it seems you always hear ... It seems like the politicians want to talk about attacking mental health, mental health's the problem. We have to fix, like what you said, our system that doesn't exist. Why do you think it's so hard that we just can't seem to get our hands around this issue, this crisis? We can't seem to dedicate the resources that we really need to help our young sons, daughters. Because as you said earlier, this sort of starts at a young age for most individuals. Just to throw you out a startling statistic, everyone ... Correct me if I'm wrong about this, but it's the leading cause of death for ages 10 to 17. That's what's killing our kids. Killing our kids, that's the number one thing.
Taryn: Yeah, and that's disgusting. I mean, that should make everybody say, "What in the world are we doing?" You know, again, that's where we have to start, is suicide and mental health has been so stigmatized for so long. Go way back to some cultures that you couldn't even have a funeral. You couldn't be buried if you died by suicide. It was a tarnish on the family. I mean, religions have still preached that it's a sin and you're burning in hell. For whatever reason, because this resides in our brain and it's an illness that sometimes lives in the brain and manifests, and yet this is the organ responsible for how we think and perceive.
Most of us can still admit we have our own stigma about help-seeking. We want to be able to do things by our self, and manage. For us to ask for help sometimes is like, "Oh my gosh, I can't believe I'm going to do it." I remember just a few weeks back, I was sitting in my own provider's office, because I was off the rails. I knew I was just heading somewhere not good, quick, and thought, "Okay, I'm – I'm 45 years old, so maybe it's hormones." So, I went. And it wasn't. It was depression. When I had to take that screener ... I do suicide prevention every single day, but when I had to look at that and answer honestly how often I'd thought about suicide in the last week, even I kind of said, "Oh my God, am I going to be honest and say this?"
Then I thought, "Yeah, you are. You are." Again, just because that's where I was at, it doesn't mean that's what I was going to do. Then of course, I'm telling this provider, "Now, just so you know, I'm safe." I knew what to say so that I wouldn't get ... I've been on a 72 hour hold. I didn't want that to happen. Thankfully, she was a trained provider and knew I didn't need that level of care. I just needed to get a plan in place for what could I start doing to get myself back on track.
Dr. Tim: Two things you said there, kind of really revealing. Okay? This shame, this lack of recognition, it's pervasive. I just happened to think about this. When we have a loved one who takes their life, insurance doesn't pay for it. They deny services, right? I don't know of any insurance ... Do you know of any insurance that...
Taryn: There are very few life insurances that cover suicide. My dad, when he died, we were fortunate that his did. It was like a $10,000 policy, but it was enough for us to get a casket, because we were his kids and had no money to do any of that. But yeah, most do not. They do not cover it. Here's an interesting thought. When you're you have a homicide that takes place, there is a Victim's Advocate Reparation Act that comes in and helps provide cleanup services if it happens in your home. When your loved one dies by suicide in your home, you are forced to come up with that money yourself, and again, insurance oftentimes does not cover it. We had to create a fund at the state of Utah to help reimbursement for that, because that's not right. You need to have that done, not a family member taking that on as their own care to try to clean up something like that. There's a lot of gaps that we need to change.
Dr. Tim: One of the other gaps you mentioned ... Well, it kind of came out a little bit. I just thought about this as a gap, is that you have the fortunate ability to go talk to someone, to say, "I have help," to see your counselor. There's a lot of individuals out there that don't have money to do that. They don't have insurance. Now, if our administration is successful in overturning the Affordable Care Act, there's going to be a lot more people without insurance, a lot more people without Medicaid. There's going to be a preexisting condition that therefore then you can't get insurance because they have a preexisting condition. What strategies ... Maybe it's not a strategy. For those individuals out there that really just don't have the finances, that don't have the resources to speak to a mental health care professional and pay for it, what can they do? What should they do?
Taryn: Yeah. There are some tremendous resources that again are free, which are valuable. NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, offers free classes, support groups, trainings to, again, educate you about your illness, teach you tools and strategies to help cope with and mitigate that. There are also several different locations that offer sliding scale fee. And telehealth services where you can still engage in a conversation with somebody for a discounted rate, but we absolutely ... Healthcare for all is vital. I don't know why people are so opposed to that. I will never understand that. And it was really up until 2008, when you had to pay a separate dang deductible, even if you did have insurance to cover your behavioral health. We had a behavioral health deductible and a physical health deductible. I mean, that made no sense.
So, there's a gentleman by the name of Patrick Kennedy, and yes, he's a Kennedy, who is a Senator. And it's been his mission with his dad that they created the Mental Health Parity Act, where again, insurance has to cover your mental health the same way it does physical. But we need to go a step further. We need to expand access to care for people.
One of the bills that we worked really hard to pass last year in the state of Utah is House Bill 32. It was a crisis service amendment that would help to create funding for mobile crisis teams. So, again, instead of having to call 911, you can have a trained peer and a licensed clinical social worker come to your house to chat with you and talk with you. There are peer support programs throughout our state, so again, you can gain access to somebody who has a level of training. You can always call those crisis lines and talk to somebody. Those are free. So, please use those. But yeah, absolutely. We need to have a crisis system in place that offers support for people regardless of ability to pay.
Dr. Tim: Well. That's awesome. And it's great we have those resources there for people to reach out to. But I'm going to kind of throw down a ground reality for you, Taryn. You ready?
Dr. Tim: Okay. You have an individual who's considering ending their life. I'll just think back to me when I was in my 20s. I wasn't thinking about calling a hotline. I was not even in the mental state to be even wanting to pick up the phone, besides even talk to anyone right?
So, while those are available and maybe ... And obviously, it happens that someone in crisis might pick up that phone and make that call, but many don't. And so, you mentioned the word peer, you also mentioned family. How ... or should they interact if they're suspecting their loved one, friend, or other is contemplating taking their life?
Taryn: Yeah. And that's my favorite mantra right there. Because again, I'm not going to wait until we have the crisis system in place so that people can get help. It is everybody's job in suicide prevention to play a role. Now that role does not mean that you have to be a therapist and that it is your job to save somebody, but we can play a role in helping people save themselves.
And it starts with, again, getting educated. Take a class. They offer them all the time, we do for free, where you can learn about suicide. About the warning signs, what to look for. When you see them, how do you respond? What can you say? And I tell people this all the time, one of the best things we can do is when we see somebody struggling, seize that awkward moment, because yes, it's awkward. You're not sure what to say. You don't want to offend. you don't know if you'll have the answers.
Well, guess what? You don't have to. What you can do is say, I see you and I hear you. And I want to hear you, talk to me, tell me where you're at. Hold space for a person. Take away this concept that you have to be able to fix it. If you're a fixer, and trust me, I am, there's a group for us. It's called co-dependents anonymous. Go do some work on yourself.
Take away that ability, or that need to fix. Because once you come in trying to fix somebody, you just told them they're broken and they're not. They don't need you to fix them, they need you to hear them. They need you to sit with them. They need you to be present. Sit with them on the dark side until they can look on the bright side. We don't have to have the magic answer or the tools or the keys. Sometimes we just have to let a person get out the energy of whatever it is they're feeling and say it out loud.
I mean, I remember telling my husband before I went back to the doctor, he came home one day and he knew I wasn't well. And he's like, are you doing okay? And I just looked at him and I said, okay, listen here. I need you to just be quiet. I'm going to say something. It's probably going to sound shocking, but I don't need you to do anything with what I'm going to say, except hear me. And he kind of went, oh, okay. And I just said, I'm either going to drink ... And I'm seven years sober, so that's not an option.
I'm either going to drink or I'm going to kill myself. That's where my brain is at. I said, I'm not going to do either of those things, but that is where my brain is at. Please just hear it and let me say it. And he had to just sit there. And yes, was it uncomfortable? I'm sure. Again, I didn't need him to come in with advice and, well have you tried ... I just needed him to say, wow, thank you for saying that. I'm sorry that that's how you feel. And sometimes that's all people need.
Dr. Tim: I can tell you though, it's hard to be a listener... And personally, I think I need to take that class. I mean, I would imagine all of us do, and definitely healthcare professionals. I mean, I've had patients say to me, Tim, I can't live with this pain anymore. I'm thinking of taking my life. And I try to get them referred out as fast as I can to a professional. But if I had, I think maybe a little better listening skill, the ability to navigate that, I know I would be in a better situation and that person would be a better situation for it.
Now, I had an idea, Taryn. I am sure somebody has thought of this already, but as you were talking, in my mind I said, why don't we hold this class as part of the curriculum in our elementary and middle schools, even? Maybe middle schools, because we look at that age range 10 to 17, why don't we start educating people earlier about this?
Taryn: Yeah. Yeah. And that's been on the radar for a long time. And so, years ago that we pushed for a bill that would require that suicide prevention be taught in schools, that that teachers be trained. And again, here's the thing. We as parents, I'm a parent, there was no class given to me. There was no manual that said, hey, here's how you deal with your kid. My mom certainly didn't have that manual when I was a teen screwing up and had multiple attempts. She didn't know what to say.
So, again, that has been long standing. And so, now there are classes offered in junior high and high school that teaches kids about mental health. It's not the perfect class, we need to continue those efforts, but you're absolutely right. We teach them, there's a course called QPR –
Dr. Tim: We were talking about this, this high school program and these middle school programs. But what I heard was it's not required. Is that correct?
Taryn: Oh, no. Sorry. So, there is a requirement now that in the health curriculum, they do teach something related to suicide prevention and mental health. Again, they're going back to adjust the elementary school curriculum. And this has only been in the last year, to start teaching more, again, skill building and mindfulness, and tools that help kids cope with stress. I always laugh that, again, I laugh because it's just ridiculous to me that I was a 36 year old college student taking a stress management class. Where were you when I was 13? Where were you when I was trying to navigate relationships and breakups? So, absolutely we have work to do here. It's been a focus of ours for the last several years, but we've got more work to do.
Dr. Tim: And I think about schools and really these threats to our children, and obviously suicide is one of the greatest threats to our children. Number one, all parents should be in there at the school board saying, "What are we doing about this? How are we addressing it?" We know that some of the other factors that we've not talked about such as bullying online and in-person impact our young children and all kinds of things. But you know, the oxymoron here is that we implemented active shooter trainings in education, in schools, pretty much nationwide. But we have 48,344 deaths that occur per year here in the United States. That was 2018. It's probably more now, but we're not moving very fast on it.
Taryn: That is my soap box, preach. Why are we training little kids to avoid an active shooter, but we're not teaching you about mental health and suicide. What is wrong with that picture?
Dr. Tim: So, based on that, I mean, what do you think we need to do? What's more needed now to prevent suicide? What do we need to do still here?
Taryn: It's a culture change and it is a shift in our mindset. Because I'll tell you what, and I apologize for my passion in advance, but you know how many years I've been doing parent nights, inviting parents to come and learn about suicide? And 10 parents will show up, when there could be capacity for hundreds, even thousands. Because we have this mindset, no, not my kid. Well, what if it is your kid? We need to get rid of this feeling that, oh, I can't go to that suicide thing because then people might think I'm not a good parent or whatever it is. I don't know what it is really. I want to understand how do we make suicide prevention sexy enough that you'll say I'm going to come and learn so that I can be preventative. That's what's infuriating to me is we've offered these and then, I'll have nine that come.
And I'm grateful for those nine. I relish those nine because that's nine more parents that didn't know before what they can do now. So, please take advantage of these opportunities when they're provided and learn so that you can have these conversations with young people, because I'm going to jump back too. It's crazy that we mandated it for teachers yet again, everything that needs to happen our kids learn in our homes. So, we as parents have to be willing to take some ownership too and say, "Okay, what can I do? And how do I create a space of safety where my young person knows they can come and tell me about this?" My kid's friends always called me the suicide lady. And I'd say, "Hey, call me the suicide prevention lady." But they knew that they could come and talk to me because we made it a safe place for discussion.
Dr. Tim: So, parents out there, please listen up. And I'm a parent too. And I think it's our parental responsibility, isn't it? If we're trying to save our child for trying to protect them from the greatest risk out there. We know now the greatest risk, it's not what we think it is. Now we know it is suicide. So, parents out there, you've got to start talking to your children about it, but I encourage you like Taryn's saying, take a class, get some training. It's free. It's online.
Taryn: I mean, and be aware of what your child has access to. Lock up your guns. I can't stress that enough. Lock up your guns. Safe storage is not on a shelf. It is not under your mattress. It is in a safe that your kid does not know the combination to. The majority of youth suicide that happened in our state are firearms and it's the firearm within the home that wasn't secured. We can save lives by that simple step. Be aware of what medications and things your kids have access to. Not only that, look at what they're looking at online. This is how I found out my kid was looking at porn. It's okay. Find out. You pay for that phone if you give them one. Be aware of what they're looking at. Where are they spending time and energy? What sites do they have access to? Have those conversations because this is our job is to keep them safe.
Dr. Tim: And now is the time for safety for our children and all of us, because another startling fact, I'm a stats guy. So, I'm into this. But in the last two decades alone, everyone, suicide rate has increased 30 percent. And guess what it has produced? For the first time in a long, long time our life expectancy here in the United States has gone down as a result of how many suicides are occurring. And now we have fuel to the fire. We've got opioids, we've got COVID, we've got financial depression, we've got social media. Parents, there is so much out there that are going to be impacting your children not only currently right now, but for the rest of their lives. It's impacting us as adults. So, if it's impacting us as adults, imagine how it's impacting your child.
Taryn: Yeah. It's so true. And again, those depths of despair and that's where we see the opioid, the overdose, the suicide. We do have to do a better job at again, being okay to not be okay. Be willing to talk about when we're not okay. And I say this too all the time, it is okay not to be okay. But it's not okay to do nothing about it. We've got to take steps to get ourselves the help and support we need when we're struggling.
Dr. Tim: And I think it might be a cultural thing, Taryn. Maybe a little more enhanced here in Utah I believe. I'm not originally from Utah. I think most of my listeners and folks know that. I grew up on the East Coast, but even growing up on the East Coast and being around the nation, we like to put up a front, don't we? Facebook, it's all good stuff. And we see everybody living a beautiful life and they look beautiful and everybody's chasing the fountain of youth. And jeez, if there's something wrong in our lives, man, there must be something wrong with that person. And that's maybe why our administration doesn't want, wants to paint a rosy picture about what's going on. We do the same thing in our personal lives, don't we? A lot of us. Is it cultural? Is it learned? It's a big question. But here in Utah, I think there's this exceptional, I don't know. I think there's a...
Taryn: Oh Tim, we have...
Dr. Tim: It's like Leave it to Beaver. It's a Leave it to Beaver thing happening here.
Taryn: We have a tiny perfection problem here. I mean, we wouldn't want to get alarmed. No, we have a huge perfection problem in Utah. And honestly, there are some researchers starting to look into this because there is. There is this ridiculously high standard that people hold themselves to here where we don't talk about it. We keep everything hush, hush, and you just put on a front that everything's good and you've got it okay. And that's not helping.
I mean I live in Utah County where we have the highest chlamydia rate in our youth. Guess what parents; not talking about sex isn't working. We have to address the things that we're afraid of or we think, "Oh, I can't." Yes. Because when we don't and Brene Brown said it best, if you're a fan of her at all, I loved her work. But she made the comment, and it was really after Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade had both died of suicide, and there was this public spotlight again, she said, "If we, as the adults, don't model help seeking behavior, our kids will never attach value to it."
And there is not a truer statement made. We have to show what that looks like. We have to be okay to, again, talk about the good stuff and the hard stuff, because it exists. If you follow me on Facebook, you'll know I'm not the one that puts up the front. I'm as real as a kid because we have to be, we have to be, we have to show that there is help, and resources available when we're not doing okay.
Dr. Tim: And fortunately, Utah is known for being number one in a bunch of different areas. One is prescription drug use. Another is porn consumption. And the list goes on, but those problems also exist all over the nation, if not world.
And I do believe that social media has not helped us in that sense of really seeking help, acknowledging that we need help, knowing that it's okay to not be okay. And how we need to move forward on that, I don't know the answer. And I think a lot of us are searching for that.
It's super encouraging to hear that now we're going to have researchers looking at that facet that might be driving some of our teen suicide rates, which are pretty high here in Utah, to my understanding, but all over the nation.
With that, where do people get help? Is there anything, even on this podcast, because people are driving around, they're listening while they're working out, is there anything that's going to, and we'll put up some of these resources of course, guys, on our site, but anything that they might remember really easily, where they could go in crisis, or they need resources, anything that you can maybe impart to us, Taryn?
Taryn: Yeah, absolutely. The first one I would say is, there is an app that you can get on your phone, SafeUT. So, again, it's specific to Utah, SafeUT. And this is an app that parents can download, kids can download, where they can chat live with a crisis counselor at the University of Utah, 24/7. It's available statewide. We've implemented it in schools to, again, encourage that conversation.
There's a tip feature on this app where you can report a tip, your worried about somebody, if you have a friend. Kids have been using it to, again, identify their school leaders that there's drug use happening, abuse happening, suicidal thoughts with other friend, bullying happening, school threats happening. It's given us an access point to get people help when they need it. Parents can use it. So, there's also a new campaign that we've started called Live On. So, again, that's a easy one to remember, Live On. You just go to Live On Utah. There's a new website and a campaign to really change the conversation around suicide and mental health.
You'll find access there to all the crisis resources, ways to get help, where to get help. Our state coalition has been a huge advocate for that movement to, again, provide people support where they need it. So, the SafeUT app, download that. Live On Utah, it'll take you, again, to our website where there's a lot of resources. Of course, always the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. I can't wait until that one is live in the three digit, but until then, it's still an 800 number. But again, all I'd invite you to do is say into your phone, "Siri, Google, I'm thinking of suicide," and watch what'll come up.
She will bring up the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline so that you can call it. Again, it is an 800 number, but it answers here locally in Utah if you dial from a Utah area code, that's how that system works.
Dr. Tim: That is so awesome to know, because there's many Siri or different types of AI devices in our homes, we have it close to our phone, we can speak it into the car. I think that's excellent. I was not aware of that. That is really awesome.
Taryn: Yeah. It's only been in the last two years that that's been a feature.
Dr. Tim: Two years. Okay.
Taryn: Because we knew, people were searching out suicide. And so, instead of ways to do it and the bad stuff, let's provide them a resource right off the bat. So, that's the first thing that comes up is a resource for support and help.
Dr. Tim: Now that app, that University of Utah is using sounds amazing, but I wonder can other people and other states use that app? Or is that really just, we should just only use that app if you're in Utah?
Taryn: Absolutely. You could absolutely download it and you'd still be able to have the chat feature, but it is, again, an app that was created in Utah, multiple states though. We have some tremendous legislators that have been at national conventions, and there's many states now that are trying to replicate that in their own state, as a feature. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline also has a chat feature that you can utilize on their website. So, does the Trevor Project, the Trevor project is a website that is geared towards LGBTQ youth and individuals, that, again, also has a chat feature plus a crisis line. But the app, yes, is in Utah, but anybody realistically could download it and use it. But you would have Utah specific resources being offered.
Dr. Tim: And I'm glad you brought that up. That particular community, LGBTQ, they are eight times more likely to attempt suicide.
Dr. Tim: And here, I don't know the percentages of that population here in Utah, but it's fairly vibrant. It's vibrant really now throughout the nation. And even though we have some recognition for that community and their rights, we still have a long ways to go. And I believe we probably still have a long ways to go in regards to suicide prevention for that group.
Taryn: Oh, absolutely.
Dr. Tim: So, just to bring this all back, Taryn, could you maybe just highlight three things that really rise to the surface for you that we should be focusing on for suicide prevention, not only of ourselves, but of our loved ones, and our friends, and our colleagues.
Taryn: Yeah. So, number one, get educated. Learn the warning signs, take a class, find out what you can do to support somebody who's struggling, get educated. Number two, we got to continue to change the culture around mental health. We have to make it okay to not be okay and talk openly about it. And then three, we got to continue to build up the resources. This is where we need people to, again, get out and vote, find out what your legislators see as priorities. Each year we show up at the State Capitol and do a State Capitol day where we advocate for funding. We need funding to make these things happen. Vote for people who support mental health and mental health services.
Again, get involved as your voice. Speak out on these things. You can sign up at our website to become an advocate and that's afsp.org/advocacy. And what that'll do is, it'll keep you informed of legislation that's happening at a national level, but also a local level, so you can lend your voice of support when things are needed to happen.
I love when people have the ability to show up and testify. For our legislators to hear your voice, to hear your story, that's what impacts change. And again, I'm up there each year and a lot of people aren't. And so, because they aren't, or it's just those loud voices they're hearing, they don't hear from all of us, but they need to. So, again, make your voice count. Vote, sign up to be an advocate, share your story because your story matters and that's how we change things. That's how we change this culture.
Dr. Tim: That's amazing. And hopefully everyone's hearing that. Be an advocate. Be an advocate for suicide prevention, not only within your family, within your school, your community, but on the legislative front. We need to make it happen and we need to make it happen quickly because we're losing way too many of our fellow citizens, our loved ones, our teens, our children. So, please act today and I'm going to make a commitment today to join Taryn at the Capitol and maybe we can even bring the in to the Capitol.
Dr. Tim: And interview some of the legislators, wouldn't that be powerful?
Taryn: That would be awesome.
Dr. Tim: Why is it, legislator, that we can't do this when we're losing almost 50,000 people a year and losing a tremendous amount of children? So, I think you need to ask those same questions of your legislators as well and I encourage you to do so. So, Taryn, I ask most everyone coming on the show, well I think I've asked everyone this, what impact do you want to have on humanity?
Taryn: Sorry, you have to give me a sec.
Taryn: My feelers kicked in.
Dr. Tim: That's okay, Taryn.
Taryn: The impact that I've always wanted to have, and especially since we lost our dad 20 years ago, was to be a voice. Your voice matters. And so, many of us think that we don't have enough to offer or we don't have enough to share, or what's happened to me is not as bad as that person, so we minimize. The impact I want to have is that you have a voice and your voice matters. So, be a voice. Share your voice.
I have just been fascinated to look back over the last 20 years and see what has taken place in our state, in our country. And a lot of it in the last 18 because of our dad. I wanted to make sure that no other family had to go through the loss of a loved one to suicide alone. We provide support so they, don't have to do that. And I wanted to make sure that suicide was looked at as the health issue it is, and that starting to change. So, just share your voice. You never how your story could affect others. And it's so important that you're here. We need you. Nobody else can be you and nobody else can play your role but you
Dr. Tim: That's amazing. Thank you Taryn for your contribution to humanity, it will, and it has, and it continues to impact the lives of every citizen and the fabric of our community. And it will continue on even after we have stopped trying. And hopefully we never stop trying because, as Taryn said, be the voice. Share your voice. Make the change.
Thank you so much Taryn for joining us on the in. We truly appreciate your contributions, not only to humanity, but to all those you come into contact with on a daily basis. And we look forward to supporting you as well as the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. And so, next on the in, we may get deeper into suicide prevention, but probing around the opiate epidemic. So, again, thank you Taryn for your time.
Taryn: Thank you.
Dr. Tim: And we look forward to seeing you at the state house.
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Duration: 53 minutesGo back